*Half spoilers*


In the opening scene of Wind River (2017), you’re immediately transported into a half-told narrative. A battered and bleeding woman is running across an icey, open tundra, but it’s unclear as to who or what she’s running from. What stuck with me though was the haggard and relentless sound of the woman breathing as she moved across the unforgiving landscape. In this way, Wind River is not much of an action “mystery” after all since from the very start, the audience should be well aware of where the movie is heading. Spoiler alert: it’s not very pretty.

This isn’t to say the movie itself isn’t gorgeous to look at. One of Wind River’s most enjoyable features is getting to watch the characters traverse the epic Wyoming landscape, whether it’s FBI Agent Jane Banner struggling through the snow (played by Elizabeth Olsen)  or Cory Lambert rocketing through it on his Ski-Doo (Jeremy Renner). Both characters are compelling to watch throughout, but surprisingly Ms. Olsen’s out-of-towner guise seems more credible than her more veteran counterpart’s.  Perhaps this is more attributable to flawed dialog than Renner’s acting of which unfortunately, there is plenty to be had. The movie is littered with Cory Lambert one liner’s such as when talking to his son learning to ride a horse, “let her feel you, let her smell you, let her know you.” At times later in the movie, Lambert’s more wise dogma may have seemed appropriate, but only if we hadn’t already been subjected to his five previous pontifications.

Fortunately, where the dialog occasionally sags, the film’s gut-wrenching action scenes more than pick up the slack. Taylor Sheridan (writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water) seems to currently hold the number one spot for masterfully creating sequences that are simultaneously haunting and suspenseful. In fact, the film’s helter-skelter Peckinpah-esque finale is the complete opposite of a letdown; it’s so much white-knuckle gun fighting that it almost feels like the single best case for the movie ever being made in the first place. Sure, there’s still more philosophy courtesy of Cory Lambert and his face-painted Native-American friend in the closing scene. But I almost wish there wasn’t. Maybe Sheridan should have taken a cue from a better movie like There Will Be Blood and ended a dark movie on a matching dark note.  

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