Gil Birmingham and Jeremy Renner in Wind River (2017).

The Weinstein Company

Gil Birmingham and Jeremy Renner in Wind River (2017).

Movie Review: Taylor Sheridan’s ‘Wind River’ is Gripping, Realistic and Beautifully-Crafted

‘Wind River,’ set on a Reservation, has an all-star Native cast, including Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene, Martin Sensmeier, Tantoo Cardinal

Wind River, which was featured at Cannes and has an American release date of August 4, 2017, is set on the Wind River Indian Reservation. The film stars Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye in Avengers franchise, Bourne Legacy) and Elizabeth Olsen (Scarlet Witch in Avengers and Captain America), and features a list of all-star Native actors, including Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene, Tantoo Cardinal and Martin Sensmeier, among others.

In the film, Renner and Olsen’s characters investigate the murder of a Native woman and interact with Native characters who represent the life on a Native reservation with a true, if difficult reality. The film has received praise from critics and an 86% favorable rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Wind River was written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, known for Hell or High Water (2016), Sicario (2015) and his work on the TV series Sons of Anarchy (2008-2010).

Wind River poster, produced by the Weinstein Company.

The Weinstein Company

Wind River poster, produced by the Weinstein Company.

Wind River is a gripping, realistic and beautifully-crafted film. A Native woman, portrayed by actress Kelsey Asbille (Eastern Band Cherokee), is found dead on the Wind River Indian Reservation. She is also a victim of sexual assault, which is addressed with disturbing consequences.

Jeremy Renner’s character, Cory Lambert, finds the body and later meets with Elizabeth Olsen’s character, FBI agent Jane Banner, and Tribal Police Officer Ben, played by Graham Greene, in an attempt to solve the murder.

This movie is not about “White Saviorism.” Taylor Sheridan has created a profound and gripping reality about the complexities of relationships between different peoples.

I believe this to be the most realistic and respectful portrayal on film of the relationships between Native people and others outside ‘the rez.’

The performances by Gil Birmingham, Graham Greene, Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen are wonderful. I would say for all four actors, they each delivered their finest performance of their careers.

Wind River spoke to me and resonated with me and, in a necessary way, is a devastating look at reality.

Look no further, Wind River is the film to see this year.

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One more exceptional note about Wind River is its long list of Native cast and crew members:

Tantoo Cardinal – Alice Crowheart (Cree)
Graham Greene – Tribal Police Officer Ben (Six Nations)
Julia Jones – Wilma (Choctaw, Chickasaw)
Gil Birmingham – Martin (Comanche)
Martin Sensmeier – Chip (Tlinglit, Koyukon Athabascan)
Kelsey Asbille – Natalie  (Eastern Band Cherokee)
Tokala Clifford – Sam Littlefeather (Oglala Lakota)
Apesanahkwat – Dan Crowheart (Menominee)
Dana Anquoe – Coroner Assistant (Kiowa)

Joyce Posey – Language Consultant (Eastern Shoshone)
Daryl Ross Begay – Native Advisor (Navajo)
Myrtis ‘Cy’ Begay – Set Production Assistant (Navajo)

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  • Marilyn W.

    Is there a release schedule? I do not see this in my local theaters and would very much like to attend.

  • Susan M.

    I saw Wind River a few days ago. It was far too violent for my tastes, but that’s just me. I had a few problems with its content too. Would an Arapaho man shout during a confrontation “Hoka hey” which is a Lakota phrase? This is my ignorance too – would an Arapaho woman cut herself in grief, again like the Lakota tradition? Finally, what really got my goat was that the film ended without clearly defining the fate of the Graham Greene character, as if the tribal people were only props for the story of the white tracker and the pretty young white FBI agent. So while I appreciated the film’s attempting to reflect some of the dismal conditions on reservations, I didn’t think it was as good as it could have been.

  • I was deeply affected by this marvellous film. It was so moving, in spite of a few questions, like those asked by the previous writer, Susan M. My main question is would a bunch of men kill one of their coworkers just so that they could have sex with his girlfriend? That seemed a little farfetched to me.
    Nevertheless, I thought that the acting was superb, especially that by Gil Birmingham. His performance brought tears to my eyes. He deserves an Oscar for his performance. I hope that this film gets distributed more widely. It is a film that everyone should see.

  • Loryat D.

    I’m a full blooded Ojibway from Canada and I was completely offended by this film. How can you guys at Indian Country not seriously comment on this film as completely disregarding, dismissing and drawing the same stereotypes of Native people that Native people have pointed out for the past 50 years in film?

    The film portrays Native people as hopeless, helpless and an utterly useless group of people that do nothing to bring themselves out of their misery and just do dumb things for no reason that get themselves in trouble and inevitably end with their death. They live in poverty, they do drugs, they live in filth and disorderly chaos and they surround themselves in death and destruction. There is no explanation or commentary on why they live like this. There is no context as to how they ended up this way (most of that commentary is reserved for the non-Native writer to discuss to the audience and to critics while promoting the film). The film reinforces the stereotypes and racist views of Americans against Native people that basically just describes their lives as meaningless and that they ‘just live that way because they always have’.

    As for the film’s commentary about how the deaths or disappearances of Native people are not statistically reported on across the country – the film basically flies in the face of that fact by portraying a story of how a young Native woman wanders onto a heavily secured oil drilling operation staffed with hormone crazed drunken men and wants to have sex with one of them. The writing and dialogue of the girl at the door basically assumes every dumb stereotype of trashy young women who flirt with the wrong people for the wrong reasons, get in trouble and are blamed for their stupidity. The story of the young Native girl in the film completely dismisses the real lives and deaths of every young missing and murdered young Native woman with the message that they brought everything upon themselves.

    There were some Canadian actors in this film, most notably Graham Greene, who should have seen the message and idea that was portrayed with the story line of 18-year-old Natalie Hanson in the film. The Canadian actors would have known about the recent struggles and public outcry that is happening in Canada now about missing and murdered indigenous women and girls. This fact alone made me feel like every Native actor in this film sold out our Native struggles for a few bucks to make this film.

    I love how your movie reviewer describes this as “This movie is not about “White Saviorism.” ” because it is exactly that. A white guy has basically taken on the role of the noble savage, except he has now become the noble cowboy with no Native ancestry. He works alongside a nonthreatening character that represents the FBI, an organization that actively attacked and killed Native people in the past. And they are the two characters that provide all the redeeming facets of the film in the end – they are the saviours that help the helpless Indians, they solve the crime that the Indians don’t and can’t solve, they are the ones who can get away with killing the bad white people, they are the ones who sit in the light of a well stocked hospital room as they cry for the pain and suffering that have befallen the poor Indians. As for the Indians? They have either been raped, frozen, shot, drugged up, living in poverty, losing their culture, dead, dying or in prison.

    The fact that this movie review was praising this film on Indian Country Today should put you guys to shame.

    Owas Tah-kah-eye Midishoi!

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Movie Review: Taylor Sheridan’s ‘Wind River’ is Gripping, Realistic and Beautifully-Crafted