Wind River (2017, directed by Taylor Sheridan) is an understated yet absorbing crime drama that takes place on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.
Corey Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a Fisheries and Wildlife employee who finds the body of an 18-year old woman in the snowy mountains of the reservation. She is barefoot and seems to have died from exposure, but when the medical examiner reveals that she had been raped, the FBI is called in. Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is the rookie agent sent to deal with the situation. In a harsh environment that is routinely neglected or ignored by the federal government, Jane enlists the help of Corey, as well as the local Sheriff (Graham Greene).
The victim turns out to be Natalie, a Native of the reservation, who happened to be friends with Corey’s daughter, who had died several years earlier in an unsolved crime. Corey carries the weight of this tragedy, which led to the dissolution of his marriage to Wilma (Julia Jones), a Native with whom he also shares a son. Corey considers himself a hunter, of wildlife up to this point, but is willing to use his tracking and hunting skills to find who is responsible for Natalie’s death. He promises Natalie’s father Martin (Gil Birmingham) to bring the perpetrator to justice.
Jane is dropped with some bewilderment into this rather desolate situation and realizes early on that some aspects of the investigation cannot be strictly by-the-book if she wants to solve the crime. Her passion and bravery, balanced by Corey’s grim determination and knowledge of the land, bring them closer to answering the riddle of what happened to Natalie.
This isn’t your usual shoot-em-up crime drama, although there is violence, of a rather sinister kind. The despair of reservation life is keenly felt here, from rampant drug problems to the lackadaisical response from the feds to the undeniable sadness at the devastation of a once proud culture. The harsh beauty of the landscape remains, and it’s in the mountains that the final justice is played out to satisfying effect.
Wind River is sad and disturbing, almost hopeless in its tone, but well worth your viewing time if you enjoy a grittier sort of crime drama.