Jeremy Renner shines in “Wind River”: A Film Review

Posted: August 20th, 2017 | Filed under: Cinema, Ruminations | No Comments »

Having a trusted confidant to help ease pain of tragedy isn’t always available.

Jake Gittes, the private dick who wasn’t on top of matters as much as he thought, had his colleague Walsh alongside when things went bad in the outer reaches of the place they patrolled.

“Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.”

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), while hunting animal predators, his job at Wind River, comes across a battered, barefooted teenager, dead face down in the snow on a barren plain far from habitation. His overwhelming dejection, the level of his immediate grief, indicate the discovery struck something deeply personal.

There are no words of solace from Ben (Graham Greene). He’s the overwhelmed police chief on the res, where downcast is the tenor of daily life. He has long since resigned himself to the desolation of existence for many Native Americans in the mountains of Wyoming.

Nor is there comfort coming from buddy Martin (Gil Birmingham), naturally, for he’s the stoic father of the deceased. He has also lost his son who is immersed in the prevalent drug culture.

Renner, one of the finest actors of the day, turns in his best performance yet, as he serves as guide and fellow investigator when aiding an out of her league FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) sent in unprepared to solve the murder mystery on federal land.

While a whodunit, one supposes, “Wind River” is actually more a look in on the sad lives of many egregiously disregarded American natives, herded onto the res where sunshine rarely provides warmth. It is an incisively crafted examination.

The credit for that goes to director/ screenwriter Taylor Sheridan, proving yet again how true his insight is to his subject matter. He wrote the screenplays of two marvelous films, “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water.” Sheridan is not a Native American, but reveals throughout this gem of a movie that he has learned and understands the culture.

Renner’s award-worthy portrayal — perhaps the best so far this year — is muted and resonant. His is a troubled soul, still somewhat a stranger in a strange land where he lives. But he is resolute to solve this crime. To help ease the grief of his own family tragedy. To keep a promise to his beleaguered friend Martin.

The specifics of Kelsey’s (Kelsey Asbille) death are disclosed in clever, but jarring fashion. There is little set up, the exposition coming out of the blue. It is, frankly, disconcerting at first. But so necessary and revelatory is the scene that the confusion attendant to it’s interruptive nature rapidly dissipates.

It is cold on the desolate snow-covered ridges and elevations where “Wind River” plays out. The setting serves as another actor in the play, beautiful, foreboding, full of secrets.

If this were film noir, a city story, we’d speak of how madness is hidden in the concrete shadows. It is not. This is a modern cowboy tale, set on the high plains in winter, the sorrow masked in frigid snow-bound white.

— c d kaplan

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