Friday, September 8, 2017

Wind River (2017)

I have been on a weird viewing trip lately. Shows like The Strain and The Last Ship sit unwatched because I want to build up a number of episodes before getting myself really into the story. I watch a few weekly shows like Teen Mom or Salvation or Saturday Night Live but for the most part I watch a lot of  crap on You Tube these days. So when Yuri made a nice screener of Wind River available I decided to get into it.

I am a big fan of a murder mystery that is about more than the killing of a person. Jeremy Renner is very good in this and makes me care about him and therefor the story being told here. The film portrays him as a man who loves his son and tries to teach him lessons about using a gun or riding a horse but he's really trying to teach him how to be a man - a man who has to be prepared for anything that hits you in life because he got hit hard and is still living through his own kind of searing pain.

He is an expert tracker and marksman and he knows the reserve he came from better than most. He can tell recent history by reading the animal tracks or listening to the wind. I know. Weird for a white man like Renner but it all works.

Then a body is discovered on the Rez and he is teamed with a female FBI agent - the glorious Elizabeth Olsen - to solve this murder during a bad winter - one where evidence is being destroyed by the second. Olsen just happened to be the first agent they called and she is so much out of her element that she is more hazard than help. They don't overplay the fish out of water trope and that works as well because the movie gives her a passion as she becomes more and more determined to solve this murder because no one else will. Plus something happens to her during her time on the Rez that hits her harder than she thought it would. There is a past here as well.

I know Renner isn't the killer. He couldn't have done it. I mean he found the body. We saw his reaction to the violence of her death and we know he is more enraged than guilty. He may have to kill Wolves to save cattle and sheep in his job with Fish and Wildlife but he hates it. He hates death more than anything but he is surrounded by it. It's another great part of Renner's performance.

The clues are presented in a very logical way because Renner is a very logical guy and I liked that the questions I had in my mind were all answered minutes after I first thought of them. It's a very satisfying way to make an effective slow burn thriller that exists in both the past and the present because the past never stops influencing the everyday lives of the characters. The movie is rich with that kind of personal history.

Add to a great story and great characters you have a setting that is bleak and unforgiving. I hope the cinematography earns an Oscar nomination because this wilderness sticks to you days after you see the film.

There is a speech about accepting death that is so well written that it should become mantra for anyone who deals with those who grieve a violent death. In that way it plays like an old time Western.

A heavy heart hangs over this entire picture like it should. I was totally into the story because the creators made the characters interesting with pain that they wear on their faces. It's heroic in the way they struggle with the past and that is really what the movie is about. The murder mystery is besides the point and that is why this works and is worth your time.

Plus for those of you who were hoping for a big love scene then this movie will disappoint you once again. It's not about that. Surprise Surprise - a good movie made by adults.

Of course I figured out who the killer(s) were early on and that was a bit of a shame. Few real suspects in a land so void of people. No way to avoid that in this kind of movie so the movie faces that moment with imagination and almost unbearable tension. I was riveted to the screen the whole time.

This is not an easy movie to watch as the horrible crime is recreated in front of you just like it happened. There is no ambiguity here. There are only good guys and bad guys. There is justice and retribution.

This film will stay with me a long time. Much like Unforgiven but that is an unfair comparison. Renner is very good here and I hope people remember that come award time. The movie is also very effective and satisfying. For all the bad that happens there is some good as well and that is enough for me.

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