Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Wind River review

The great thing about movies is that they can take us to a place that you don't see everyday.   The modern Native American society is such a place. Wind River takes place in the Wyoming Indian reservation of the same name. The question for this film is whether it's a fair depiction of modern Native American life.

In Wind River, Fish and Wildlife officer Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is hunting a predator on the Wind River Indian reservation when he discovers the body of a young, native American girl. He calls in Ben (Graham Greene) , the tribe's police chief. The body shows signs of rape. They bring in FBI agent Jane Banner. (Elizabeth Olsen) With magic of Banner and the eagle eye marksmenship of Lambert, they're able to bring the bad guys to justice. Um... sorry. That's the Avengers. Look, I had to make an Avengers joke here. You do have the actors who play Hawkeye and The Scarlet Witch.

Anyway, let's go over what Wind River gets right. The acting is excellent. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen turn in their usual good performances. But I want to talk about the outstanding performances by the Native American cast. They all express themselves as modern Native Americans. It's quite believable. Legendary Graham Greene (Dances with Wolves) is a practical cop who has to deal with the obstacles of enforcing the law in a large rural area.   . The victim's father played by Gil Birmingham. He's grief stricken and suffers from serious depression. Julia Jones is Cory's long suffering wife. Let's hope that they get more work in the future.

Director and writer Taylor Sheridan has made a good drama with a balanced emphasis on character, nature, action and mystery. Where the movie stumbles is Sheridan's handling of action pieces. He relies too much on the editing to replace the action versus letting the camera do the work. For example, there's a scene where gunmen are starting to flank the cops leading to a Mexican standoff.  It would be better if Sheridan let the camera follow the gunmen rather than editing it with fast cuts. I t's more coherent.

 Then there's this white-centric telling of the story from two white characters.   . Why not write this story from a Native American's viewpoint? While it  might be good commercial sense to write a lead character as white and cast a known actor. But we don't get enough of the modern Native American culture when that happens. This movie might have been better if the Lambert character was Native American. You could still have a FBI agent played by a known actor. And speaking of the FBI agent, Elizabeth Olsen's Jane is given little to work with in regards to exposition. Too often, she bursts into emotions. Those come  out of nowhere.

The movie  doesn't do enough to show the modern Native American culture.  What we get from the movie is all of the bad stuff.  Drug use. Unemployment.  Poverty.    And Sheridan has the strange idea to end the movie with a literal statement about missing Native American women.   Well, okay but this movie barely touches that.

Wind River is well made mystery-drama.  But don't look to this movie as showing you anything about what it is to be a Native American in today's world.  The grade is B..

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