A half-step down from a masterpiece, “Wind River” didn’t quite get the attention or traction at the office as last year’s “Hell or High Water.” Both are thematically similar neo-Westerns written by Taylor Sheridan, who also steps behind the camera to direct. It’s a gripping tale of alienation, justice and revenge, and how those impulses mix together when a young girl turns up dead.
Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, a hardscrabble man who is a hunter of hunters -- in his case, dangerous predators for the federal Fish and Wildlife Service. Though with his big bolt-action rifle, peerless outdoorsman skills and dead eye, it’s apparent to anyone that his capacity to kill is not limited to the four-legged.
His jurisdiction, and his home, is the Native American reserve in the cold, craggy reaches of Wyoming, where the snows blow year-round. When a local teen turns up frozen to death, having fled across the icy ground barefoot, an investigation is launched. The local lawman (Graham Greene) goes through the motions, but an FBI agent is sent to do the real snooping.
Played by Elizabeth Olsen, Jane Banner is green enough to immediately be in over her head, and smart enough to recognize it. She recruits Cory to be her tracker, and the two begin to sift through the barely buried dirt of the reservation, where pride and despair resound in equal measures.
The scene where they interview the victim’s father, played by Gil Birmingham, packs as big an emotional wallop as anything you’re apt to see at the cinema this year.
Filled with a bleak, despairing sort of beauty, “Wind River” is one drama that hits its storytelling targets with surefire accuracy.
Alas, video extras are sorely lacking for this film. They consist of a few deleted scenes and a gallery of still photos from the set.