2017, Movies

Wind River (2017, Taylor Sheridan)

This is a mostly excellent crime mystery/thriller set in rural Wyoming. (Is there any other kind of Wyoming?) It’s a pretty good film and the quibbles I have are mostly representation ones.

This is quite well done – there is a young cop out of her depth who has to investigate a rape and assault that led to a death. It feels pretty authentic and it is filmed in a gorgeous location. It’s just well-executed.

One example is the shoot-out. It reminds me a little bit of the shootout in Hold the Dark. This one is still too extreme, with an unbelievable amount of death. But it feels earned. The shootout in Hold the Dark is far more extreme but it also feels like it completely comes out of nowhere. This movie builds to it and, when it happens, it feels believable even though it really isn’t. (The earlier scene where there is almost a shootout really helps sell it.) It makes me wonder how i would feel about this film if it was directed by Jeremy Saulnier, who I am a big fan of. (It also makes me wonder what I would have thought of Hold the Dark had it been directed by Taylor Sheridan…)

Though I think you can absolutely critique the decision to show what happened instead of letting it be a mystery, that is not my problem. (And, honestly, it serves a function given that it happens right before the climax.)

Rather I think the biggest criticism is with the casting and story. People made a fuss about a Chinese American woman playing an indigenous woman. And that’s reasonable. But, for me, the bigger issue is the writing of Jeremy Renner’s character as a white guy. Couldn’t he have been indigenous? What would have been the harm? You still could have cast Elizabeth Olsen you just would have had to cast Adam Beach or somebody. (Can’t we find somebody?) This might seem like a minor quibble but, given the context of the story, and given the purported purpose of the story, having the hero be indigenous would have really, really helped.

And that brings us to my other problem. This film says “based on true events” but it’s really just that Sheridan thinks we should pay more attention to missing indigenous women. Good. Great. But that doesn’t mean it’s inspired by true vents. (And cast an indigenous hero already.)

So, a movie I liked a lot and wanted to like even more. But I really do think the representation criticism is appropriate here. (And I don’t always feel that way.)


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