If you’re a fan of last year’s excellent modern Western Hell or High Water, you have some big reasons to get yourself into a theater for Wind River. Taylor Sheridan, who writes and directs, has a wordsmith’s way of capturing American dilemmas on par with the likes of Sam Shepard and Cormac McCarthy.
The man knows how to pen a great thriller with depth, and his works—he also wrote Iscariot and Hell or High Water—have in common a somber tone. This is a guy who knows that many of the people you pass on the street today are dealing with an eternity of grief and loss. They are making it, but it’s a bitch, and it’s not going to get easier. Wind River marks Sheridan’s second feature directorial effort, after 2011’s low-budget Vile, and it stands as one of the summer’s best films. It’s a solid mystery-thriller and a showcase for two fierce performances from Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen—yes, Hawkeye and Scarlet Witch.
They both offer up career-best work, with Renner searing the screen as Cory, a man with a tragic past, paid to hunt wolves and lions on a Native American reservation. Olsen commands her screen time as Jane, one of cinema’s gutsiest FBI agents since Clarice Starling. With this film, Renner has been tasked with some of the more difficult, emotionally brutal scenes an actor has had to handle this year. He’s been impressive before (The Hurt Locker), but this takes his stock to a new level.