Wind River Blu-ray Review
After SICARIO and HELL OR HIGH WATER, we already knew that Taylor Sheridan the writer was very talented. But with WIND RIVER, he proves that not only does he have a way with scripts, he also clearly understands the little intricacies that make a movie great. In the hands of a lesser talented writer or director, WIND RIVER could have easily gone down the rabbit hole of missteps that so many “thrillers” fall for. Predictable crimes, shallow heroes, haphazard love stories and an investigation that comes together too easily are just a few of the common tropes that WIND RIVER manages to avoid. The result is one of the best “thrillers” to come along in a while and the welcomed arrival of a new writer/director combo in Taylor Sheridan.
On it’s surface, WIND RIVER is simply a story about a rookie FBI agent that’s sent to a small Indian reservation in Wyoming to investigate the death of a Native American girl. While there, she enlists the help of a seasoned tracker to guide her through the Wyoming winter and the culture she’s completely unfamiliar with. But that high level overview doesn’t do the film justice because it kind of sounds like a lot of movies we’ve seen before.
I’ve been thinking about why WIND RIVER succeeds when so many other crime thrillers fail and I think the answer comes down to the fact that Taylor Sheridan puts the focus on our two heroes and not on the crime or criminals. We know something horrible has happened and there’s no need to beat it into the audience’s head with graphic visuals or deep descriptions that relive the event. Instead, we get connected with Cory (Renner) and through the reveal of his past, everything he does has meaning and purpose. And Sheridan handles this very gently, allowing the information to come to light naturally rather than throwing it in the audience’s face. Although we didn’t learn as much about Jane (Olsen), her character was equally important, acting like a catalyst of information for the audience as we see things through her eyes. Olsen played the character perfectly, giving Jane a strength that made us root for her but a subtlety that made us respect her.
In addition to all of the things Sheridan did well, perhaps the best part of WIND RIVER are what Sheridan chose not to do. For example, there’s no love story in WIND RIVER. That seems like a simple subtraction, but too many writers wouldn’t have been able to resist the urge to connect Cory and Jane. The other big omission is the nice Hollywood wrap-up. Of course the large mystery is going to get solved, but Sheridan resisted the urge to wrap up all of the sub-mysteries that had no bearing on the main plot. Their purpose was to support the character arcs, but again, too many writers would have wrapped everything up neatly to give closure to everything and everyone. WIND RIVER didn’t need that kind of closure and Sheridan was wise enough to understand that.
I’m clearly a big fan of WIND RIVER and I hope the film can still find success through the Weinstein scandal. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen give wonderful performances and Taylor Sheridan gives award-worthy turns as both a writer and a director. I’m guessing a lot of people missed WIND RIVER in theaters, so hopefully it will find an audience on home video.
Video: The beautiful Wyoming landscapes come through nicely on Blu-ray, but there were several scenes that made me long for a 4K release.
Audio: The audio was fine.
Deleted Scenes (3:11): Clearly, nothing here makes much of an impact, but it’s nice to have them included on the disc.
Behind the Scenes Video Gallery (9:55): Random collection of behind the scenes shots.