Wind River (2017)
This is a modern American murder mystery with a difference. That difference is that it is set in and around a Native American Reservation, and also stars some Native American actors alongside the two white leads. Better than nothing, as far as I am concerned. More importantly, it highlights the appalling fact that so many Native American women and girls get killed or go missing every year, yet that does not even feature in national statistics provided by the government. Okay, political bit over, on to the film.
Jeremy Renner plays Cory, a hunter and tracker employed by the US Wildlife Service. His regular job is to find and kill the predators like wolves and mountain lions that take livestock from the local farmers. He is divorced from his Native American wife, after an event in their past that shattered their relationship. But he has visits with their young son, and likes to show him how to get on with horses, and learn the ways of the outdoors.
On one of his hunting trips, he comes across the body of a young Native American girl, and he knows her, and her family. He brings in the Tribal Police, but they have limited resources, so contact the FBI. Along comes just one agent, (Elizabeth Olsen) out of her depth in the rural setting, and different culture. She doesn’t even have a coat to wear, in freezing temperatures, and heavy snow. But she is a tough cookie despite all that, as we should have guessed. Discovering that Cory knows the area like the back of his hand, she enlists his help to investigate the murder.
The Wyoming scenery is as much the star of this film as any of the actors. It is breathtaking and majestic, even though that makes life hard for those who live there. There is not much work, little by way of entertainment, and the young men of the tribe are disaffected and drifting into crime. Oil companies have been granted leases on the Federal Land, and protect their investment using armed security guards.
The rest of the film is a straightforward quest to find the killer of the girl. Along the way we get to meet the local chief of the Tribal Police, (the familiar face of Graham Greene) the devastated parents of the dead girl, and some criminal elements living in squalor. There are a couple of exciting shoot-outs, and more wonderful scenery, accessed by the ubiquitous snowmobiles that offer the only practical solution to travel off-road. Central performances are solid and reliable, and the film-maker avoids some of the usual tropes in films of this genre.
The Native American characters are shown in a fair and sympathetic light, and the issues surrounding their past and present treatment by the US government are addressed with a nice light touch that works well. All in all, a good-looking murder drama that I found myself liking a lot more that I thought I would.
Here’s a trailer.