Wind River is a thriller set in the harsh, remote, snow-covered landscape of Wind River, a Native American reservation somewhere in the USA.
The story shows the few inhabitants, workers, police and the FBI battling against the elements, against the depravity of human nature, and against their own weakness and suffering. The main action revolves around the mysterious death of a young Native American woman. And it is this death that is supposed to form the message of the film. Native Americans, Wind River states, have been unfairly forced into locations like Wind River, and murders of these inhabitants often go unsolved, particularly those of young women. Thrown in amongst these locals is the resident and professional hunter Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner). Renner is the drawcard for the film. He’s rugged and capable and acts well. The other main character is Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) an FBI agent sent to investigate the murder. In over her head she teams up with Cory, relying heavily on his local knowledge and hunting skills.
It seems counterintuitive to cast two white American actors as the main characters and heroes when a film is trying to make a statement about the sidelining of Native Americans. But perhaps this casting was intentional because without these character/actors the message might not have been noticed. Or maybe the choice of these two characters was supposed to underscore the liminality of the Native American people group. Regardless, the important theme that forms the backdrop for Wind River is put across too gently. It is largely drowned out by jittery story development but also by beautiful cinematography, well-drawn characters, good acting and the relentless and unforgiving environment.
I didn’t leave the cinema feeling sorry for the characters. I left wondering how anyone could survive in that freezing, pitiless climate.
Wind River is well worth seeing. It opens at cinemas in South Africa on 3 November 2017.