‘Wind River’: Nothing to write home about

Ian Murdock
Special to the Village News

After writing two extraordinary films – “Sicario”, and especially “Hell or High Water” –  I was filled with great expectations regarding Taylor Sheridan’s newest film, Wind River.

With a respectable main cast on deck –  Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olson (the lesser known sister of the Olson twins), Gil Birmingham, Kelsey Chow and Julia Jones –  this story navigates the disappearance of a young girl in the beautifully scenic, rural land of Native American turf, known as Wind River.

After a somewhat slow start –  even allowing for my above average tolerance for “evolving” plots –  events did escalate and start to grab the viewer’s attention. While I was definitely intrigued, and eager to have the “face down cards” revealed, the acting –  other than a few short–lived moments – was flat and uninspirational.

Based on true events, this story contained very emotional and heartfelt subject matter, but it was not new by any stretch, and thus, consequently, the film needed to deliver something extra special to elevate a story that has been told – sadly – many times before. Unfortunately, it didn’t come close to doing so.

Even the cinematography did not “wow” the viewer, which was counterintuitive, considering the setting.

One of the biggest flaws of this film was its failure to develop a deep enough connection to the main characters. In a world where movies are often significantly too long –  and frequently annoying and insultingly repetitive – Wind River was a bit too short, and clearly could have used the additional minutes to create, and provide, greater depth and background of the quintessential characters. This lack of substance was a critical – if not the critical – flaw of this story. It is challenging to feel moved by such an emotional story, when virtually no connection has been established to the core characters.

As the film culminated, some violence crept into the story, and more notably, an ultra dark resolution – one that tainted my already dour view of the film.

When I originally went to see Sicario and Hell or High Water, I couldn’t really imagine a drug cartel plot, nor a bank heist story, falling into the great film category –  these types of films having been done “ad nauseam” over the years. Both of those films not only surprised me, but proved to be exceptional, with Hell or High Water winning multiple Oscar nominations. Wind River posed the same scenario for me but, sadly, taking three seemingly common “thriller” storylines, and making them all extraordinary, was seemingly too high a bar to attain.

Wind River is worth seeing, but would be ranked third when referencing these Sheridan stories. In other words, nothing to brag about –  at all.

 

***/***** Three out of five stars

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