Wind River is a violent, gritty and bleak film perfectly suited to match our current frozen landscape. Written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (writer of “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water”) and starring Elizabeth Olsen (Jane Banner) and Jeremy Renner (Cory Lambert), the film tells a story that few directors in Hollywood are willing to tell: that of the high number of Native American women on reservations who go missing every year. It is telling that no statistics are compiled for this demographic, yet there are for every other group in the United States. This is the silent epidemic that prompted the impassioned Sheridan to take the helm and become a first-time director.
The film opens with a terrified young woman running away from something in the middle of the night. The next day, Lambert discovers the body of a murdered young Native American in the frozen tundra of Wyoming, nowhere near civilization, while tracking predators for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Thus begins your standard mystery thriller. That the murder investigation is led by an idealistic Las Vegas-based rookie FBI Agent (Jane Banner) is indicative of the low priority the government gives to those who live on reservations. This sentiment is confirmed throughout the story by tribal policemen and residents alike when they meet Banner “…see what they give us here?”
As Sheridan’s story continues, the desperation of reservation life is explored and the audience sees first-hand the effects of the government’s policy of neglect toward the residents – it’s a place where drug addiction, poverty, violence against women, and murder are not uncommon. The film’s stillness, its utter and complete silence in parts, is a stroke of cinematic genius. It gives the audience the space needed to understand the reservation’s disregarded citizens and why they are virtually numb to everything happening in their midst.
Verdict: See this movie. If for no other reason than to enlighten yourself to the plight of those who are rarely thought about, discussed, or even mentioned in our national dialogue.
Olsen and Renner’s investigation unfolds methodically, taking in the unforgiving landscape and eventually coming to a terrifying and shockingly violent conclusion that more than adequately ties everything together in this horrific investigation. Though some might find Olsen’s portrayal of the lone female agent a bit clueless, weak and needy at times, she serves as the audience’s introduction to a life so different from many of ours that we cannot comprehend it without further explanation.
This story telling technique is simple but necessary. For someone who knows virtually nothing about life on Native American Reservations, the explanations from Renner’s character and the Tribal Police are a much-needed assist. These characters are the veterans who have lived a majority of their lives on Wind River and know first-hand the brutality that lives in their midst – and along with it, the acceptance that justice is not expected, not promised, not guaranteed. This allows us as an audience to feel the hopelessness that the reservation’s residents face on a daily basis. It is a story seldom told (and one that needs to be told) by more dedicated and brave storytellers and film makers like Sheridan.
Start learning about the lives of Native American womenCheck out a copy of Wind River
Whitney Z. is a native Pittsburgher. She is currently a substitute Library Assistant who loves audiobooks, music and movies. She believes firmly that NASA made a mistake in demoting Pluto and would sincerely like for said decision to be reversed.