First Impressions of Wind River

I recently watched Wind River (2017), writer-director Taylor Sheridan’s latest offering. Sheridan is known for writing Hell or High Water (2016) and Sicario (2015) and acting in a number of TV dramas. Wind River takes place in Wyoming and has a very Western feel. Despite stunning cinematography, its pacing is extremely slow and it struggles with a meaningful plot. Brooding, monotone delivery is mistaken for depth. Here are some of my initial thoughts:

  • What is the purpose of this movie? It’s a lackluster story wrapped in a vague statement about how the FBI doesn’t track the number of missing American Indian women on reservations. Except the girl in the movie wasn’t really missing, she was just dead.
  • I thought the idea of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent tracking a human predator was pretty cool and interesting. The film sets up this conflict in the beginning but then it ultimately goes nowhere.
  • I also liked the “fish out of water” stuff with the FBI agent interacting with unfamiliar people in an unfamiliar environment, but aside from a few quick introductory scenes this also goes nowhere.
  • Wind River is labeled a “murder mystery thriller film,” but isn’t either of those things. There’s no mystery because a flashback explains exactly what happened halfway through and the authorities never actually solve the crime or bring anyone to justice. It’s not a thriller because there’s no sense of suspense or urgency. Unlike a typical crime thriller, there’s no sense that one crime must be solved to prevent another from occurring.
  • There seems to be a trend in movies in which picturesque locations or beautiful cinematography attempt to mask lack of substance.
  • I did appreciate the characters’ authenticity. The American Indians were actually played by actors and actresses of that ethnicity (mostly). The settings were gritty and realistic, although one mobile home seemed to have an unrealistically cavernous interior.
  • Why did security guards at a remote oil drilling site have tactical weapons and ballistic vests? Did they expect a hostile takeover?

Wind River isn’t a bad movie, it’s just not that great. It struggles to find its footing and then delivers a “surprise” ending that falls flat. In the end, nothing changes except the number of headstones at the local cemetery. The film had a larger message about survival and resiliency in the face of hardship, but it wasn’t enough to keep me interested.

What are your thoughts?

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