Wind River, NOT for the kids or even teens, is a solid, beautifully filmed murder mystery which showcases a brilliant, old school classic style performance by Jeremy "Hawkeye" Renner.
I LOVE The Avengers. I’ve seen all the origin stories more than once – heck I own them. Iron Man, Thor, Hulk. Didn't think I’d live to say Wonder Woman was fabulous. I’d never even HEARD of Guardians of the Galaxy before the incredibly fun movies and now I'm a BIG fan. And when it comes to the Sokovia Accords I happen to be a member of Team Cap (even though I think Robert Downey, Jr.’s Iron Man is terrific and contributes some of the best lines.)
So it pains me to say this but….after seeing Wind River, I realize Jeremy Renner is COMPLETELY WASTED as Hawkeye. I have always looked forward to seeing Hawkeye. He makes some of the pithiest remarks. My favorite scene in Thor is Hawkeye doing the “color” as Phil Coulson attemptes to subdue Thor: “You better call it Coulson ‘cause I’m starting to root for this guy.” And, “Do you want me to take him down or would you rather send in more guys for him to beat up?”
So he can play a fun snarky action hero movie star but I never knew Renner was a REAL ACTOR. Wind River is, at its core, a murder mystery. A young woman is found barefoot, abused, and frozen to death six miles from anywhere in the Wind River Indian Territory of Wyoming where the night time temperatures get down to negative 20 even in the spring. Her body is discovered by Cory Lambert (Renner) hunter/track of predators for the US Wildlife and Fisheries, and, tragically, family friend of the dead girl. His wordless measured response to finding her body is heartbreaking.
Lambert’s daughter met the same fate some years before and his family was devastated by it, leaving him estranged from his still grieving wife and trying to be a good father to his young son. FBI Agent Jane Banner, played by ANOTHER Avenger, Elisabeth “Scarlett Witch” Olsen, is solid in the role of Lambert’s sounding board. As you might imagine, there is a LOT going on for this beleaguered protagonist and Renner captures his quiet stoic pain, conveys devoted familial connections, humbly accepts the unearned guilt for the past tragedy, asserts a noble masculinity, and communicates an unflagging determination ALL with a paucity of words. His is an old school acting style the likes of which were seen in Jimmy Stewart’s George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life or Gary Cooper’s Sargent York – good, principled men, who act thoughtfully with a steel spine, doing the job others won’t or can’t to protect the innocent as best they can, and try to bring justice into a difficult, sometimes heartless world.
The movie is also beautifully filmed. Utah subs for Wyoming and the vast expanses, open wilderness and sense of brutal but gorgeously frozen mountains is cinematically eye catching.
The supporting cast, including the iconic Graham Greene as the Tribal Police Officer, are personable and work comfortably with Renner’s character as though, in fact, they have worked together for decades.
My biggest complaint, without giving away too much, is near the denouement. There is an artlessly edited flashback which is so unnecessary, sappy, gratuitous and slow it not only interrupts the suspension of disbelief but makes you wonder if, like a bad TV connection, you have been flipped to a different channel. Worst of all it not only contributes nothing to the plot but actually takes away from the flow, the mood, and the suspense. The director could have literally pulled out the entire scene in one unwanted whole, like a splinter from your foot, and it would have been completely unmissed. Its poor inclusion is especially damning as the rest of the movie is pretty darned good.
Some bad language and the murder circumstances make this a movie NOT for kids. The poorly chosen flashback make this movie inappropriate for anyone but adults.
This is a visually impressive but moody, grim film. If it were not for the jarringly bright, snowy, stunningly beautiful shots of mountain vistas one might even call it a film noir. The center of this film is the character studies and the axis about which everyone turns is the amazing character Renner crafts as Lambert.