Jeremy Renner gives the best performance I’ve seen so far this year in Taylor Sheridan’s haunting directorial debut, ‘Wind River’. Renner has been nominated for a few Oscar’s in the past, but none of those previous performance match the subtle emotion, wit, and charm that he exudes in this film. He is the very manifestation of a stoic warrior, but one who is grief stricken in the most profound way. This grief doesn’t define him though. It guides him and his decisions.
The most important decision in this movies narrative is the one he makes to help an FBI detective named Jane (Elizabeth Olsen in another good performance) track the potential killer of an 18 year old Native American girl. Cory (Renner) also had a daughter die a few years back and his connection with the dead girls parents leads to one of the most palpable monologues about grief I’ve ever witnessed. The writing is fantastic here, but it’s the way Renner delivers it that makes it unforgettable.
The bulk of this tale is in service of the police investigation and the politics surrounding murder near Native American reservations. The script deals with the red tape for local law enforcement, the jurisdiction of the federal police, and the strange legal position that oil drillers have on federal land. Yet, all of that intrigue remains second to the heart of this fine film. The movie is really about lose. Most every character in this movie has lost something unfixable and the events around them are what shape their existence.
The twists and turns of the murder mystery are no more fun or convoluted than any other film, but the depth of these characters is something special. Director Taylor Sheridan is no stranger to these genre films. This may be his directorial debut, but he wrote both Oscar nominated films ‘Sicario’ and ‘Hell or High Water’. So, he knows his way around characters and mystery. Yet, the thing that stands out most about this flick is Jeremy Renner. His characters is so well written and the performance is so rich that it feels special.
I know this film is a limited release and it’s unlikely that Renner will receive any awards consideration, but you should still check this film out. It’s a beautiful, exciting, and emotional ride through a rarely seen part of America. Which is part of the reason we go to the movies in the first place. I don’t care when you see it. Just see it.