A grizzled tracker and an outsider FBI agent hunt a killer in this old-school crime drama. We’re in wintry Wyoming, a place of run-down Native American reservations, broken marriages and the scourge of drug abuse. Tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is divorced from a Native American woman. Their daughter disappeared some time ago. Cory carries the loss like he does his hunting rifle, with confident familiarity.
When another teenage girl is found dead – frozen and barefoot – Cory wrestles with a flood of emotions. Renner does tricky work right under the surface here; forget those ‘Avengers’ movies and even ‘The Hurt Locker’ – this is his most tortured turn to date. He’s assigned to help a Las Vegas federal agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), who makes her way out in a blizzard to contend with some ingrained sexism and get the case solved.
Writer-director Sheridan (who wrote ‘Sicario’ and ‘Hell or High Water’) fills his thriller with sharp observations among his Native American characters, as well as the sudden crack of gunfire. You learn to look for tracks and clues; it’s a film that makes you a better viewer.
‘Wind River’ plays like a forlorn western, almost like a late-period John Ford masterpiece like ‘The Searchers’. Sheridan has proved himself to be a recent master of this very American genre, and he’s clearly a fan of simple shooting and unsentimental line readings. If you like your movies lean and mean, you’ve got some viewing ahead of you here.