CREDIT: Fred Hayes/The Weinstein Company

This review was originally posted on News Cult in August 2017.

Starring: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal

Director: Taylor Sheridan

Running Time: 111 Minutes

Rating: R for the Terrible Things That Men Do When They Think They Can Get Away With It

Release Date: August 4, 2017 (Limited)

As a lover of cinema, I favor originality, moreso in terms of premise than subject matter. It is worthwhile to give voice to underrepresented stories, but it can be disheartening when they hew closely to the formulas of familiar narratives. Wind River makes those conclusions a little more complicated by baking the invisibility into its entire purpose. The dead body of a young woman is discovered in the snow in Wisconsin’s Wind River Indian Reservation, and the investigation is complicated by the harshness of the elements, the fact that this is technically a federal jurisdiction, and the lack of attention given to Native American women in peril.

Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), the FBI agent sent to investigate, pulls up right in front of the check-in cabin but cannot see it, as a relentless blizzard erases any concept of visibility. That is not the only way she is unprepared, as the locals assure her that her lack of winter gear  means she is liable to freeze to death in a matter of hours in the woods. She just flew in from Las Vegas but was somehow the closest agent available. The residents of Wind River are bemused, but not offended. They are used to being forgotten and either making peace with the harsh conditions or surrendering to them.

Most of Wind River is a team-up between Banner and US Fish and Wildlife agent Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a tracker who knows the land better than anyone and discovered the body in the first place. She is the novice outsider doing her best to understand this world, and he, with a Native ex-wife and son, is the outsider from within. The snow and the lack of hard evidence force them to take meditative breaks and philosophical detours, rendering much of the film a lament about the waste of promising life. For those of you who prefer your mysteries wrapped up neatly, the truth of the crime is eventually revealed in a bravura flashback, but the full extent of it is only presented to the audience. The investigative team puts it all together, but this is still a world in which everything is ephemeral unless someone shines a light on it.

Wind River is Recommended If You Like: Hell or High Water, Mud, Prisoners

Grade: 3.5 out of 5 Frostbites