Wind River has an err of quiet mystery that sweeps through its barren, snowy landscapes. It's a small-scale story that, with the addition of a terrific cast, packs a considerably strong punch.
In the most general sense, it's a murder-mystery that has both Jeremy Renner's and Elizabeth Olsen's characters perhaps biting off more than they can (individually) chew. Cory Lambert (Renner) is a hunter/tracker that ends up stumbling across a body during one of his hunts in Wyoming. Jane Banner (Olsen) is then called in, as the FBI's closest agent to the scene. The two then end up utilizing each other's strengths to tackle the homicide case.
While fairly straightforward in premise, Wind River takes pride in all of the minutiae, bringing relevancy to each of its set pieces. The headlining actors perform with flying colors, and bode well in both their individual performances, and even better when featured alongside each other simultaneously. The way that Renner and Olsen leverage their characters' strengths, as well as their previous on-screen chemistry, is made evident immediately. Never do we get the feeling that Jane Banner is bumbling idiot, but rather someone with a vast set of tools tackling an entirely different type of beast. On the other side, Renner's Cory Lambert also never feels like a clichéd hero. In many ways, he's got home-field advantage—having traversed the snowy tundra on several occasions—but lacks some of the detective prowess. Pair up his instincts that rely on sight and scent, with Banner's intellect, and we have ourselves a solid dynamic.
In addition to that is a robust supporting cast that helps breathe life into an otherwise lifeless, and unforgiving backdrop. The depiction of Native American culture is intertwined throughout the film, and plays a major part in projecting a type of reality that isn't often brought up in cinema. The characters we encounter are flawed, multi-faceted, and genuine. Too often does diversity feel shoehorned in as an extra, but in Wind River its importance is presented with a quiet sense of grace.
In terms of cinematography, the film is beautifully shot. The aesthetics echo that of 2015's The Revenant combined with season one of True Detective. While no stranger to plenty of dialogue, the dead-air in between lines often feel somber, yet earnest. Some of Wind River's most gripping scenes aren't the ones with bullets, but ones with raw emotion. Elizabeth Olsen puts you right in the thick of things, being the eyes and ears of the audience, while Jeremy Renner acts as the film's guide.
Wind River is a graceful and atmospheric film that tackles a topic that too often either goes overlooked, or portrayed disingenuously. Renner and Olsen showcase their range of acting skills, and provide a stout anchor to keep the entire plot in check. To recommend this as a murder-mystery does Wind River a considerable injustice. It's an immersive and enthralling journey that'll make you feel like you need a thick winter coat. It's a cold one, so you'd best be prepared.
1-2: Horrendous, wouldn’t recommend watching even if free of charge.
3-4: Potentially has some good ideas, but overall still lackluster.
5-6: Average, a decently good time; go see it if it's free.
7-8: A solid recommendation, and well-rounded film; warrants a purchase after home release.
9: No glaring flaws; deserves to be watched multiple times.
10: Masterful, must-see; filmmaking at its finest.