Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut solidifies his style while teaching its viewers about an important subject
Wind River isn’t an easy watch, to say the least. It’s disturbing, distressing, and deals with heavy topics. If you know Taylor Sheridan as a writer, in both Sicario and Hell Or High Water, then you’re familiar with the kinds of themes his latest thriller will explore. As heavy as it is, Wind River is a powerful and bleak story that features strong performances from Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen.
Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a game warden, is shaken when a young Native American girl is found dead near the Wind River Indian Reservation. FBI Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is called to investigate the death, and when they find out the young girl has been raped and murdered, they work together to try to find the culprit.
It’s interesting to see Taylor Sheridan step behind the camera to tell his own story. His stories always consist of bleak and disturbing content that can be hard to convey on screen. One wrong direction can quickly lead a film like this into offensive territory. However, this never seems to be an issue for Sheridan who directs Wind River with precision and care. He handles some rather brutal scenes with ease and takes a lot of his directing style from Denis Villeneuve, whom he has worked with on Sicario. There’s plenty of long panning shots as well as wide shots of the beautiful snowy area, making it seem very similar to Sicario‘s aesthetic.
And like Sicario, Wind River is just as dark and disturbing. There’s a consistent mood that’s heavy, and sometimes it’s hard to watch. However, he isn’t afraid to show the darker aspects of humanity, and even when the film is hard to watch, it never feels totally hopeless. It’s clear that those kinds of themes are what Sheridan is interested in and he portrays them so well. There are moments of pure hatred, but there’s also moments of sadness and grief that helps the viewers sympathize with our characters. Wind River is the movie that solidifies Sheridan’s signature style as a writer and now, as a director. It’s a promising start for what’s to come from this brilliant author.
While his style works well on screen, it certainly isn’t easy for our actors who have the hard task to act in this environment. He creates very intimate moments without any music and uses close up shots, forcing our actors to deliver amazing performances. The whole supporting cast, as well as Renner and Olsen, do an excellent job. Wind River depends on them to step it up when intimate moments arise as Sheridan likes to portray the film’s emotions through its characters. A lot of the moments are just Olsen and Renner in a silent room delivering their dialogue to each other and Sheridan trusts his actors to deliver. Fortunately, everyone in the film delivers great performances.
In any case, his strength lies in his writing, which continues to be as compelling as always. He clearly understands what makes an interesting story and knows exactly how to tell it. Although Wind River may not be his most intricate work, it still feels like it made many points and explored many themes. It explored many issues that Native Americans face while humanizing all of his characters through love and loss. Even in this dark story, Sheridan surprisingly finds ways to insert humourist moments without feeling out of place or being jarring.
With all said and done, his primary focus is on message, trying to highlight the problems Native Americans face every day. He explores many problems from life on the reservations to the problems of drugs, but the overall message is a plea to help missing and murdered Native American women. All of it feels rather preachy at times but it’s an important message that needs to be heard, and Sheridan is well aware of this. He loves to tell these types of stories and his passion to evoke change comes through. His stories never feel exploitive or shallow as many similar movies often fall into. What makes him such a good writer and director is his ability to tackle these tough stories without any fear. Movies like Wind River certainly proves that we need more filmmakers like him working today.
With powerful performances by Renner and Olsen, Sheridan is able to tell his timely story to such an emotional result. Although his writing continues to be his strong hold, his signature as a filmmaker is beginning to take shape. Wind River is a film that isn’t afraid to show the dark reality of humanity and just how careless our actions can be. Our actions have consequences, and sometimes a simple “sorry” isn’t enough to fix the situation.
Wind River opens in theatres on August 25.