Director Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River, also incorrectly but frequently referred to as Wild River, is a beautifully filmed, atmospheric thriller set on an Indian Reservation in Wyoming. The scenery is stunning and bleak, as is the fabulous soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis. Think Fargo crossed with Winter’s Bone.
The movie opens with a young girl in great distress, running barefoot across the snow. We can’t see what she is running from, or why. Her dead body is discovered some time later by a hunter. The movie follows the efforts of a young FBI investigator sent from Las Vegas to solve the crime. She seconds the hunter to help her navigate the Indian Reservation, and the local reservation cop also provides local assistance. We eventually discover the cause the young girl’s distress and see justice done.
The movie explores the hard lives that people on Indian Reservations live, particularly the women. Of the four women characters from the reservation, two young girls die young – one murdered – one is suicidal and the other has a broken marriage. Not a lot of positive success stories or role models there. This is contrasted with the young white female FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) who is a strong and successful character able to hold her own in a male world, despite initially being naive and lacking the street smarts to survive in the Reservation.
There seems to be no escape for the Indians. Alternatives open to them seem to be joining the army, committing suicide or getting involved in the hard drug culture. The one woman we see that escaped (by marrying a white guy) sees her daughter die and her relationship collapse. Most of the positions of responsibility around the reservation are taken by white people – the FBI, the tracker and the security guards for the mine. There’s distrust of outsiders and a lack of faith that justice will be done through the official system. Vigilante justice is sanctioned to fill the gap.
Our verdict: Wind River or Wild River, whatever you choose to call it, is an absolutely fabulous movie – beautiful, haunting, bleak. 10/10