Wind River Screen 12 articles

Wind River


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  • No longer an innocuously dumb film, Wind River turns to explicit and gratuitous depictions of sexual violence. While the flashback might be necessary to show us how and why the murder happened, the decision to show the rape itself is excessive, especially as it is shot in a manner that gives us a full view of the action. But Wind River is a film that is fascinated by Indigenous suffering and this is often manifested as the excessive cinematic torture of these subjects, especially women.

  • Even leaving aside the mechanical aspects of Sheridan’s plotting, there’s a sense that all this ruthlessly evoked trauma—and the larger problems it signifies—is just a pretense. For what, you ask? Well, Sheridan does like his florid tough-guy poetry and deploys it in nearly every scene. “This is the land of you’re-on-your-own,” rasps one local, who, like the guy writing his lines, has apparently seen Blood Simple.

  • The movie peaks with its pre-credit sequence, in which it still seems as though Sheridan is taking into consideration the poetic potential and dramatic weight of the landscape, its specific history and inhabitants. Yet as the film progresses, Sheridan strips away everything that initially makes it so distinctive, adding artificially dramatic moments and tension that feel tired and irrelevant to life on the Reservation.

  • The film's score, another collaboration between Nick Cave and Warren Ellis, awkwardly juxtaposes ghostly choral moans and trippy industrial soundscapes. Sheridan's subtle, uniformly terrific supporting cast does a lot to temper these laborious tactics, but the film succumbs to Lambert's didacticism: His perceived humility masks a smug, Manichean worldview.

  • Sheridan can’t get his writing arm around all this hopelessness and degradation. His script contains rudimentary elements of follow-the-clues mysteries and life-or-death wilderness adventures, but it never coheres into a taut, compelling line of action. Wind River ultimately aims to be an existential survival movie, but that aim is rarely true.

  • [Sheridan's films are] couched in the fluent language of big-screen drama. Wind River can be thrilling and it owns the ability to surprise and shock throughout, especially when it comes to scenes shot in and around trailers. When Wind River approaches its final denouement, delivered in flashback, it bares its teeth to become extremely violent; the body count suddenly rises amongst people we’ve barely met, making an extended interlude set on a mountain top seem a little excessive.

  • While there's much to recommend, particularly its (literally) elemental focus on genre and specificity of place, it’s the weakest of Sheridan's projects thus far. The dialogue, awkwardly caught between Sicario’s terse realism and Hell or High Water's flavorful stylization, is surprisingly weak. The structure, too, though it has a few fascinating gambits, can feel rather mechanistic. But what his script (uncharacteristically?) lacks, Sheridan makes up for with some remarkably assured direction.

  • Sheridan’s feel for psychology and setting are in fine evidence here. Wind River’s landscapes are forbidding and beautiful. Cory, whose ex-wife also lives on the reservation, once lost a teen daughter in similar circumstances, and he can empathize with the girl’s anguished, nearly-suicidal parents. Because the film pays such attention to grief and atmosphere, I can forgive it some of its more frustratingly conventional plotting choices.

  • There is, I think, a certain obviousness that mars the film: an obvious mystery, an obvious rape-revenge resolution, and an obvious cinematic style, limited to a few mood-setting chords and anonymous handheld photography. Sheridan has room to grow as a filmmaker, but he knows how to keep a plot clipping along, when to drop the thematic hammer, and how details can turn a corpse into more than a mere procedural.

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    Film Comment: Laura Kern
    March 03, 2017 | Sundance | March/April 2017 Issue (p. 64)

    Cold, snowy, and determinedly tough-minded—much like the weather and political conditions at this year's edition of the festival—Sundance Premieres selection Wind River is clearly the work of a master wordsmith... Moody and mesmerizing, the film is part procedural and part human drama, accentuated with social commentary and jarring bursts of extreme violence.

  • Sheridan and cinematographer Ben Richardson use that landscape beautifully in a story that reaches out in several directions—it’s about, among other things, communities of forgotten people, the intricacies of gender dynamics and the ways in which violence against women can be insidiously veiled. The story comes to rest in a way that’s both somber and gratifying.

  • As a director, Mr. Sheridan is a little more subtle than Mr. Mackenzie. This is kind of surprising; frequently, writers turned directors really like to bring the hammer down on their subtexts... An actor before he was a screenwriter, Mr. Sheridan clearly spent a lot of his time learning about filmmaking on movie sets; his direction is assured throughout. A standoff scene near the movie’s finale would not be shamed if put next to one of Michael Mann’s better set pieces.

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