American West, Wind River marks Sheridan’s first at-bat as a director. (He previously wrote the scripts for Sicario and the Oscar-nominated Hell or High Water.) He acquits himself pretty well, capably setting a compelling scene for a snowbound murder mystery. A woman is found dead far out in the wilderness on an American Indian reservation in Wyoming. She’s discovered by an ace Fish & Wildlife hunter played by Jeremy Renner, and the case is handed over to the F.B.I. Or, at least, to one young F.B.I. agent, played by a perhaps miscast Elizabeth Olsen. Well, actually, it’s hard to tell if Olsen is miscast or if it’s a problem of Sheridan’s writing. Just as with Emily Blunt’s F.B.I. agent in Sicario, Olsen’s Agent Banner is something of an incompetent—or is at least constantly being told the better way to do things by some stern man. This is a bad trend emerging in Sheridan’s writing, one I hope he’s cognizant of. Otherwise, Wind River is a perfectly entertaining murder mystery with some meditations on the plight of reservations and some shrouded critique of the fossil fuels industry added in to give the film heft. Wind River is probably Sheridan’s weakest script to date—Renner’s character, who suddenly becomes a better crime investigator than the trained F.B.I. agent, is often a little ridiculous—but it’s still got style. Despite some clumsy flaws, Sheridan’s stories have a somber gravitational pull. And withWind River, he shows that he can probably handle them himself from now on
For a writer of violent action thrillers, Taylor Sheridan has an unusual fixation with the inelegance of jurisdiction within American law enforcement. At Sundance, the screenwriter of Sicario and Hell or High Water completed his spiritual trilogy of American bureaucracy and delivered his directorial debut with Wind River. Starring Jeremy Renner as a solemn hunter who discovers a dead teenage girl on the titular snow-covered Indian reservation, and Elizabeth Olsen as the inexperienced FBI agent assigned to the case, Wind River is a slow-burn thriller that flip-flops between meticulous noir and philosophically boorish procedural.
It should be rated R for extreme violence and existential dread.
Wind River does not currently have a release date, but you can expect to see it in 2017. It was originally set to be distributed by The Weinstein Company, but was dropped shortly before Sundance.