If Sicario and Hell or High Water proved anything, it’s that Taylor Sheridan is not to be messed with. His films depict a crimpled America, full of tragedy and terror as everyday citizens attempt to survive the harsh situations of their reality. This ideology carries over to our new, equally broken protagonist, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner). He’s a divorced hunter, holding a history of sadness on his shoulders everywhere he walks. Work consumes his life, but it’s time he takes a weekend off to spend with his son. Sadly for both of them, work arrives in the most unexpected of places. While patrolling through the harsh swamp of snow that’s befallen a Native American reservation, Cory uncovers the dead body of Natalie Hanson.
Through endless snowstorms and constant blizzards, the world does everything it can to make situations difficult for Jane and Cory. Wind River marks the first time Taylor Sheridan steps in to direct one of his own scripts, his first feature being a little known horror film titled Vile, and he makes the most of it. His script is first and foremost the main player in this story. It’s full of subtext and a grim commentary on the world we live in, but a good script doesn’t make a good movie. The actors need to give it justice, and they play Sheridan’s words like an orchestra. It’s really heavy hitting stuff, and audience members may have an uncomfortable time sitting through the more harrowing moments, but as a whole, the gut-punching experience makes for worthwhile cinema.
You can’t really prepare for a movie like this. Wind River is the type of film you think you understand, but it manages to sneak up behind you and hit you over the back of the head. Characters are all layered and broken, each for different reasons, and their sorrow connects one another. The people of the reserve have a mutual respect and understanding for the harsh environments and even harsher citizens, which creates an interesting contrast when the first-day-on-the-job FBI agent shows up. She thinks she knows what she’s getting into, as do the audience, but she’s very much unprepared for the brutal reality and harsh points of view presented.
Between this, Sicario and Hell or High Water, we have an unofficial crime trilogy, and it’s one of the finest trilogies in recent years. The three films, while completely separate in subject matter, have more in common than meets the eye, and when put together, we’re able to gain a new perspective on a broken America. Taylor Sheridan is only just getting started. Whatever he has coming up, I am in.
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