This simple murder-mystery set among the windswept snowscape of a Wyoming Indian reservation offers a heady blend of modern western, thriller, and neo-noir sensibilities.

Inspired by true events, Wind River centres on the rape and murder of a teenage girl found in the snowy wilds by professional game hunter Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner). The mystery proves too great for local tribal police with their meagre resources, and the Feds are clearly disinterested, offering a sole FBI agent to help on the case. Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is a slight and seemingly inexperienced young agent, who conspicuously doesn't belong among Lambert and his wind-beaten companions.

Unfortunately, her character never conquers this imbalance, much to the detriment of the story's gender concerns. As Lambert explains, the landscape is harshly indifferent to all that go before it, reducing everything to survival. And it appears that Banner cannot survive without the help of her male companion.

Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in Wind River.
Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in Wind River.

Banner represents a missed opportunity that contemporaries such as Silence of the Lambs' Clarice Starling (to which Wind River owes a great deal) comfortably navigates. Its racial ideals fare no better, with Lambert again being the great white saviour applying the mop to an impotent cultural minority unable to deal with their own problems.

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Despite the race and gender misfire, the cinematography and score elevate the film beyond mediocrity, evoking a palpable sense of isolation.

In his directorial debut Taylor Sheridan (screenwriter of Hell or High Water and Sicario), keeps the plot humming and offers some genuinely thrilling moments; even occasionally offering poignant insights on grief and loss. His directorial strength clearly lies in ratcheting tension but he makes a good fist of the more nuanced moments and gets excellent performances out of his cast.

Cast:

Elizabeth Olsen, Jeremy Renner

Director:

Taylor Sheridan

Running time:

107 mins

Rating:

R16 (Violence, sexual violence, offensive language & content that may disturb)

Verdict:

Icy murder-mystery thrills, but is not woke

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Samuel L. Jackson swears a total of 122 times throughout The Hitman's Bodyguard - that's more than one swear word per minute of the film's 118 minute run time.