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Wind River (2017)

Lionsgate
Blu-ray Disc Released: 11/14/2017

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Review by Mike Long, Posted on 11/7/2017

(Hopefully) Writers are always trying to do something a little different and find ways to add some unique qualities to their materials. Sometimes this means writing something which is very different from mainstream material and may present a story or idea which has never been seen before. However, what usually happens is that a writer will take a scenario which isn't very original and then add or tweak one aspect to make it different. This can be something as simple as a distinctive character or a unusual time period. In Wind River, Writer/Director Taylor Sheridan has taken the murder-mystery and set it in a location which we rarely see in the movies.

Cory Lamber (Jeremy Renner) works for the Fish and Wildlife Service and part of his job is making sure that predators are kept in checked. While tracking wolves on the Wind River Reservation in Wyoming, Cory find a dead body. He contacts Ben (Graham Greene), the local sheriff, who in turn calls the FBI. Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) arrives on the scene, completely unprepared for the snowbound conditions. Despite the fact that he's not law enforcement, Jane asks Cory to assist her, as he's the one who found the body and because he knows the area so well. As the murder brings up very personal memories for Cory, he agrees to help. With the autopsy providing little to go on, the pair must search for clues in the icy terrain, where they soon learn that one body is only the beginning.

With Wind River, it appears that Sheridan, an actor who also wrote Hell or High Water and Sicario, is attempting to make two films here, neither of which is very successful. On the surface, we have the murder-mystery. This starts off in a very ordinary fashion, as a body is discovered and an investigation begins. Then things begin to go wrong. First of all, it's clear that Jane's arrival is meant to trigger a "fish out of water" air, as she's not ready for the weather or the situation on the reservation, but she really doesn't hit many roadblocks. Overall, people are nice to her and cooperative. I also got the feeling that Sheridan was going for a sort of Twin Peaks thing, as Jane enters an unfamiliar world...but, again, things aren't all that strange. The mystery itself ventures into giallo territory, as the story doesn't really give us any suspects and the revelation of the killer will have little to no impact on the audience.

The other part of the film seems to want to expose what life is like on the reservation, but we don't get much in that department either. There is talk of unemployment and that residents would rather go to jail than live there, and we see some of the small houses in which they live, but if the goal was to represent how the government has turned their backs on the Native Americans or how time has left them behind, the movie fails. My only take away on this front was that Wind River is in a desolate frozen wasteland, a place in which I could not imagine living. But, any attempt to make Wind River a film with a political message fails. There is on-screen text at the end which makes a statement about missing women on reservations, but it doesn't completely tie into the film.

This is Sheridan's second time directing a feature film, so perhaps he wasn't sure how to get his message across, or supply a compelling story. The film does have some positive qualities. The cinematography is wonderful and the sweeping shots do a great job of conveying how large and isolated the region is. Sherdian does show an adeptness for capturing violence, as there are two action sequences in the film which are well-done, especially the second one. This burst of brutality which comes in the third act is a much-needed shot in the arm for the film and provides the only real tension here. The ever-dependable Renner is very good here and believable as the reluctant longer. It's nice to see Olsen trying something different and she fares just fine. Gil Birmingham, who many viewers will recognize from his comedic role on The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmdit is great here as a grieving father. So, Wind River has some nice components, but the end result is a boring film which doesn't succeed as a thriller or a political piece. It's a very ironic twist that we watch the characters dealing with an icy environment, while we watch a film which leaves us cold.

Wind River offers an unavoidable connection to The Avengers on Blu-ray Disc courtesy of Lionsgate. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the Disc contains an AVC 1080p HD transfer which runs at an average of 31 Mbps. The image is sharp and clear, showing no overt grain and no defects from the source materials. Given the nearly constant white backgrounds provided by the snow-covered landscape, the lack of grain and artifacting is impressive. The colors look good and the image is never overly dark or bright. The depth is excellent, as the actors stand out against the white backdrop. The level of detail is impressive as well. The Disc carries a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track which runs at 48 kHz and an average of 3.0 Mbps. The track provides clear dialogue and sound effects. The wind provides a nice range of surround sound and stereo effects, and these sounds move from front to back in a nice fashion. The action sequence makes great use of subwoofer effects, which nicely accent the shotgun blasts.

The Wind River offers only two extras. The Disc contains two DELETED SCENES which run about 3 minutes. The are both brief and don't offer any new characters or subplots. "Behind the Scenes Video Gallery" (10 minutes) focuses on Renner, Olsen, and Sheridan individually, and offers a look at the two main characters and the writer/director.

Review Copyright 2017 by Mike Long