Now Is A Good Time To Watch WIND RIVER

Now that we've said our thanks, it's time to bundle up with the Blu-ray of one of the best films of the year.

Yesterday, the 45th President of the United States of America managed to embarrass himself further, spitting directly in the face of the Native American community he was supposed to be honoring -- by intentionally slinging the name "Pocahontas" as a pejorative for Elizabeth Warren. To be "shocked and appalled" would be a normal response. However, it's not at all surprising that Trump found a way deride the people who we genocided into extinction not so long ago.

Wind River is a film about such ignorance. It's also an incredibly tense, pot boiling detective story about a local hunter helping a federal agent solve a murder on a reservation.

Wind River, Wyoming is a very real place.-- Natives live here in the cold, in poverty, and in desperation.

It opens with our victim -- a young Native American girl -- running for her life, barefoot in the snow. The elements prove too harsh for her, and she collapses and dies. But where was she running from? Who was chasing her? This is the central question that drives the film.

Jeremy Renner's Cory Lambert is a game hunter. He tracks and shoots coyotes and mountain lions, protecting the town's farm animals. We quickly learn he's legally separated from his Arapaho wife, that they have a son, and that they lost their daughter not very long ago under mysterious circumstances.

So when Cory finds Natalie Hansen's (Kelsey Asbille) body in the snow while on a hunt, it strikes a very particular chord with him. 

The feds are called, and they can only send a green agent from Las Vegas -- Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen). Banner is, on the most literal level, out of her element. Which is why it's all the more painful when the coroner can't declare Natalie's death a homicide.

Agent Banner is on her own, and there's only six cops who patrol all of Wind River -- an area, Banner points out, that is the size of Rhode Island. Cory offers his services ("I hunt predators", Renner humbly intones), and the two begin their pursuit.

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That's the first act, and to say anymore would be a disservice to the film itself. Renner and Olsen give career best performances, and the movie hits emotionally hard and loud. While Wind River is the directorial debut for Taylor Sheridan, it's the third film he's written.

With Sicario and Hell Or High Water, Sheridan has carved out a trilogy of socially conscious crime thrillers. While they all focus on different areas of American ignorance, this one is his angriest film by a country mile. 

Wind River is the anti Dances With Wolves. It's unflinching in its portrayal of the white man's impact on modern Native American societies. The titular reservation itself, while settled nicely in the American heartland, is a third world country. It displays three types of people who live in it -- those who have escaped its grip, those who have surrendered to its "snow and silence", and those who quietly fight to live a normal life inside it -- and that's who suffers the most.

The main characters in the film, still, are white. One could make the argument that Wind River falls into the "white savior" trope -- where a white man pulls minorities from their plight after assimilating their culture. Still, without spoiling the rest of the film, Sheridan, using white protagonists, shows the importance of everyone doing their part to better a community -- that individualism is the poison that marginalizes. There is no help but the help we make.

"There's no luck here," Cory Lambert says. "Just survivors."

During the film's press circuit, Sheridan told Newsweek that he didn't want to make a film that preached, but rather films that "pose questions of how we conduct ourselves in reality". The questions he's referring to, however, are extremely pointed.

And really, the film asks one, large question: How can we allow this stuff to happen?

 

Terry Erickson is a screenwriter, lifelong film fan, and all around good guy based in Baltimore, MD. He's driven across America twice, is obsessed with Back To The Future, and loves almost everybody.