Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olson are probably best known for their roles in the Marvel superhero movies as Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch, respectively. But they team up again in Wind River to play more down to earth characters in an earnest drama that’s set in the wintry mid-west--and it turns out to be a riveting thriller, as well. Renner plays Corey Lambert, a veteran tracker with the Fish and Wildlife Service. Whenever a wolf, a bear, or any kind of predator gets too close for comfort with human society, it’s Corey’s job to track it down and kill it. This is what he’s doing in the mountainous, snowy terrain of Wyoming when he comes across the body of a young Native American woman.
When he calls the authorities, they call in Jane Banner (Olsen), a rookie FBI agent who’s normally stationed in Las Vegas. The victim turns out to be a teenager whom Corey knows, a girl named Natalie who was the best friend of his deceased daughter. The autopsy shows that Natalie had been sexually assaulted, but that it was the elements that had actually killed her. This stymies Jane, who is unable to call in a proper FBI team to handle the investigation since the girl was not technically murdered. Determined to solve the case, Jane asks Corey if he would work with her, since he knows the area extremely well.
Renner and Olsen are both fantastic here as they play an unlikely but sympathetic team who launch their own investigation into Natalie’s murder. Wind River is not only a superb mystery, but it also effectively chronicles Native American life in a desolate, wintry hellhole where the icy weather can literally kill you if you are not prepared for it. The great cast also features Graham Greene, Hugh Dillon, and even a surprise appearance from Jon Bernthal in a pivotal role. The acting is on point from everyone, even from actors in small roles.
Writer/director Taylor Sheridan directs this with a strong hand, giving us a great feel for the cold, unforgiving landscape that his characters inhabit, a bone-freezing place where it can be sunny one minute and a full-on blizzard the next (and it’s spring, to boot). The suspense also gets ratcheted up the more Jane and Corey peel back each layer of this mystery, and it’s done through good old fashioned detective (and tracking) work. If you’re looking for a gripping murder mystery that’s also a superb drama with substance, then you should pay a visit to Wind River. --SF