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Bright and Bleak: Wind River (Cannes 2017 Review)

Wind River

By Ali Moosavi.

Taylor Sheridan has written the script for a couple of terrific thrillers recently: Sicario and Hell or High Water. This year he is in Cannes in the Un Certain Regard section as a director with another great noir, Wind River (only his second feature after 2011’s little known Vile). We are told that the film is inspired by true events. In Wyoming during a snow storm, the body of a Native American girl is found by a local hunter, Cory (Jeremy Renner). The girl, who had been physically and sexually assaulted had been a close friend of Cory’s daughter, who herself had died in a snow storm previously. That loss had caused the separation of Cory and his Native American wife.

A female FBI agent, Jane (Elizabeth Olsen) is sent to investigate the murder. She is a fish out of water in the cold wilderness and enlist the help of Cory to help her get around in this harsh territory. This is an area where mostly men inhabit. These are guys working on rigs, whose hobby is to get drunk or get high. They are violent, many having done some time. Apart from the Native American girls, there does not seem to be any females around. As one of the guys says: there is only snow and silence here.

Sheridan has created a sinister and dark tone in an overtly bright environment. All the men wear black clothes, which accentuates this contrast. Cory is distinguished from the rest, not just by his demeanor, but also by wearing a white snow suit. Sheridan’s masterstroke, which distinguishes the film from similar thrillers, is to show the crime, in all its graphic form, in middle of the film. This suddenly heightens the viewers’ appreciation of the gravity of the crime and the nature of those who commit it. Ben Richardson’s cinematography perfectly captures the snow-covered forests, and another real plus is the moody music. Though IMDB lists the soundtrack to be by Warren Ellis, in the closing credits, the music was also credited to Nick Cave and, as a Cave fan, I can vouch that the music definitely bore his signature.  All the cast are excellent, in particular Jeremy Renner who gives, in what could be described as a Steve McQueen-type performance, a cool exterior but an untamed interior.

Ali Moosavi has worked in documentary television and has written for Film Magazine (Iran), Cine-Eye (London), and Film International (Sweden). He contributed to the second volume of the The Directory of World Cinema: Iran (Intellect, 2015) and is based in the United Arab Emirates.

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