Wind River” is absolutely powerful. So is Jeremy Renner. Elizabeth Olsen is sublime. Writer and Director Taylor Sheridan’s “Wind River” tells the tale of karma, of justice. Renner plays Fish and Game hunter Cory Lambert on the Indian Reservation in Wyoming – Wind River. Cory is strong, sad, and lives by a code. Cory’s marksman mastery hints of the military sniper past, although never disclosed. Olsen is the green, rather almost frozen FBI Agent Jane Banner, summoned from Las Vegas via her hometown in Florida, to investigate the heinous murder of a young woman in the sub-zero Wind River. Cinematographer Ben Richardson captures Nature’s austere and unforgiving power. Conversely, Sheridan explores the power of forgiveness in people in “Wind River”.
Cory is estranged from his distant wife Wilma, played by strong Julia Jones, who is American Indian. They share custody of their 10 year- old son Casey, played by radiant Teo Briones. Both Cory and Wilma still grieve for their 16 year-old daughter Emily, who was tragically murdered 3 years ago.
“Wind River” opens on the frozen night as the beautiful young woman Natalie, played by bright Kelsey Asbille, runs bare foot and bloody across the snow pack. She would not survive. Cory discovers her body, doing his job as animal predator hunter. His painful visage is of recognition.
Natalie’s father Martin, played by compassionate Gil Birmingham, hugs and cries when Cory comes to the house. Cory weeps in silence as well. I cried. Later Cory tells Martin the amazing story. When Cory was healing over the death of Emily, he took a seminar. He said that what the seminar leader said always stayed with him. The seminar leader said, “There is good news, and there is bad news ” The bad news: Cory’s life will never be the same, his daughter was gone. Then he got this. He tells his friend Martin, “Take the pain ” That is a way to keep the memory of his daughter in his heart, alive. Wow.
“Wind River” is about the lightness and darkness of humanity. Cory and Martin embody the best. However, life can be the paradox of great beauty and the ugly. The ugly is the senseless and heartless murder of a 19 year-old woman.
Along the darker path Olsen’s fierce idealist FBI Agent Jane finds her partner in Cory to bring Natalie’s murderers to justice. Although, Natalie was brutally beaten and raped, she died of the severe cold— the frozen air in her lungs killed her. The local coroner tells Jane of this finding. This is an outrage to Jane, because this jeopardizes the murder investigation. The costs are too high. It’s just not right.
Renner and Olsen are amazing in their focused partnership. In the poignant scene Cory tells Jane about the murder of his daughter. Renner is fearlessly vulnerable and authentic courage. Olsen is naked in her humanity and compassion as she weeps staring into the bathroom mirror. There is the touching scene toward the end as Jane suffers envisioning what it was like for beaten Natalie to run 6 miles in the snow. Renner’s Cory eloquently acknowledged Natalie, “That’s a warrior.” Cory and Jane are the true warriors as captured by Renner and Olsen.
Cory and Jane seek justice in the darker side of humanity, the side that is cruel and dismisses human life. In the end is it about justice or karma? T.S. Eliot wrote in “The Hollow Men”: “This is the way the world ends—Not with a bang with a whimper.” Even if it does it is all very sad. Renner’s Cory knows this sadness, and is uncompromising in fighting for what is right, what is good.
“Wind River” is my favorite movie of the year, because it acknowledges both the beauty and ugliness of the world, and also believes in its heroes. Our heroes always inspire us to be greater than. Now that is a world worth living in.
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Originally Published on IMDb