‘Hell or High Water’ writer Taylor Sheridan hits another home run with this exquisite Wyoming-set crime drama
“Wind River” opens with the stark image of a woman running barefoot across the frozen emptiness in wide-open Wyoming. The particulars of who she is, where she is and why she’s running are the subject of this gritty, dense, superbly realized crime procedural that ranks among the year’s best films.
Writer-director Taylor Sheridan, who wrote “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water” — both on the short list of the decade’s finest works — continues his hot streak here and shows his knack for richly written characters, a detailed sense of environment and sharp dialogue. “Out here you survive or you surrender,” one character says late in the film, summing up the desolation of central-western Wyoming, which Seridan paints with the same acute eye and ear as he did western Texas in “Hell or High Water.”
Jeremy Renner, in his strongest performance since his Oscar-nominated turn in “The Town,” is Cory Lambert, an agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who joins up with local law enforcement and visiting FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to investigate the death of a young woman found face dead in the snow. (Renner and Olsen are both Avengers, their presence here showing the blockbuster-to-indie tit-for-tat of modern filmmaking.)
Sheridan builds his world and plunges viewers into the center of it as Lambert and Banner follow their investigation, step by step. He doesn’t turn up any big surprises or bog things down with extraneous subplots — surely a lesser screenwriter would have made the two leads fall in love — he just shapes his story with the precision and craft of an expert storyteller. Bundle up: “Wind River” will blow you away.
Rated R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language
Running time: 111 minutes