Sunday, August 6, 2017


Wind River is the third script in a trilogy written by former actor (Sons of Anarchy) Taylor Sheridan.  The first was the stunning thriller Sicario, directed by Denis Villeneuve and starring Emily Blunt, Benicio Del Toro, and James Brolin.  The second, directed by David Mackenzie, was Hell or High Water, with Ben Foster, Chris Pine, and Jeff Bridges.  Wind River is Sheridan's directorial debut.

For Sheridan, the theme of the trilogy, he's said, is a question:  how does one move on without getting closure?  He also sees it as dealing with issues of masculinity and fatherhood.  (Interestingly, when asked during a Q & A about his approach to writing female characters, Sheridan said he writes his women characters as if they were men, and leaves it to the male actors to react to them as if they were women.)

If you're a screenwriter or an aspiring one, it's easy to hate Sheridan.  Sicario was the first script he'd ever written, after he departed Sons of Anarchy for trying to lowball his salary.  Out of acting work, Sheridan completed all three scripts in three months, and gave Sicario to his entertainment attorney (since he'd fired his acting agent).  His attorney read it, loved it, sent it around, and the rest is history.

Wind River was financed by Native American tribes (Sheridan had spent much time on reservations) and shot in Utah (for Wyoming) in 30 days.  A key scene with many characters was rehearsed for a month and shot in a mere 45 minutes--because that's all they could afford.

The film stars Jeremy Renner in perhaps the best role he's had since The Hurt Locker. Sheridan described Renner as an actor who "can wear his emotion on his skin."  And indeed he does in the film--with his ex wife, his Native American grieving friend, and particularly in a scene towards the end, with Elizabeth Olsen (below), his co- star, who plays an FBI agent who is out of her element and smart enough to seek out Renner's tracker character's help.

This thriller is ostensibly about finding the rapist and killer of a Native American woman found dead in the snow (in reality, many women on reservations have gone missing), but its emotional core is loss, grief, friendship, doing the right thing, and trying to move on.  If one scene defines the film, it is the one below between Renner and his friend, the father of the dead woman, played by Apesanakwat of the Menominee tribe of Wisconsin, in which the two friends sit with their grief.

Wind River is a quiet thriller and a thoughtful one.  Sicario is still my favorite, followed by Hell or High Water, but this one must also be seen.  When asked what films influenced Wind River, Sheridan said it was one:  the tone of Michael Mann's The Insider.

Sheridan's next project is a limited series with Kevin Costner titled Yellowstone, which he described as being about the "gentritifcation of the West"..."The Godfather in Montana."

Here's the trailer for Wind River:

P.S.  Music by Nick Cave!

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