We have all watched murder mysteries, whether it’s dating back to Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho or running all the way up to films like the adaption of Dan Brown’s Inferno. This genre excites, fascinates, and, often, terrifies audiences. But they don’t always stand for something greater than themselves—greater than being popcorn fodder. However, Wind River strives to spread awareness in addition to entertainment.
Last issue we brought you our fist review from Brooklyn’s very own BAM’s film festival appropriately named BamcinemaFest 2017 held in the Peter Jay Sharp Building on 30 Lafayette Avenue. For more than 150 years this institution has celebrated the arts, and the people who create art—this year is no different. From an incredible lineup of motion pictures, we have chosen the best to analyze, films like Wind River.
The plot follows the murder of a Native American teen and subsequent aftermath. Found barefoot and frozen in the snow by a local wildlife service agent named Cory (played by Jeremy Renner), the discovery sparks an investigation that leads FBI Agent Jane (played by Elizabeth Olsen) to join forces with the wildlife professional to track down the killer. This may seem like another odd couple team up, yet once the narrative expands we uncover the film’s proposed message as the protagonists themselves strive to solve the mystery—a message that many may not be aware of: Sexual assaults and disappearances of women on reservations go largely unsolved, a fact that this film attempts to drive home.
There is an old storytelling guideline: show, don’t tell. Director and writer Taylor Sheridan achieves this in abundance on his film-making debut. The relentless arctic that is the Wyoming’s winter and the Wind River Native American Reservation from where the film takes place is captured in all its brutal glory. The barreling landscape and unbridled pale vista that swallows the viewer whole is supplemented by an ethereal soundtrack. We are introduced to this cold, haunting world through stark imagery, so by the time the plot rolls around to the victim, we don’t have to imagine the subzero temperatures she endured in her final, fleeting hours, we see it firsthand. The family’s suffering is another aspect that feels depressingly genuine. The loss of a loved one is a horror indescribable to those who have experienced it and an unimaginable one to those who haven’t. This is a fact that becomes crystal clear in the wake of the girl’s death as we see her distraught parents coming to terms with life after their daughter. The grief is tangible, thanks to superb acting by the parents and Jane’s shaken response to this. Being a local, Cory is respected by the area’s tribes, both for his tracking skills and for his character. Therefore, Jane enlists his help in tracking the killer, not unlike how he tracks the land’s native creatures. My only issue with this is that Jane often appears weak and in over hear head, not because she needs help, but due to the fact that Cory seems to be doing most of the work, a strikingly impractical issue when she is supposed to be the FBI agent.
As the duo draws closer to unraveling the mystery, they find themselves in increasingly more dangerous situations. While the action scenes in Wind River are few and far between, there are some instances when punches are thrown and guns are discharged, and we feel it. Skirmishes are brutally tangible and frighteningly realistic with some of the best build up I have seen in a mystery. We care about our protagonists, so when it comes time for them to fight for their lives, we are on the edge of our seats.
Wind River receives top marks for its use of visual storytelling and its attempt to raise awareness of the Native American’s continued plight. Wind River is in cinemas now.
Photos Courtesy of the Weinstein Company’s Wind River film screenshots