Movie Review: Wind River (2017)

Quick Hitters

Rotten Tomatoes Score– (Critics: 86%) (Audience: 92%)

Stars: Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen

Basic Plot: A murder mystery that takes place on Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming.



A young Native American girl goes missing on an Indian reservation, a disheartening thought in the freezing empty land that is winter in Wyoming.  Her body turns up a few days later: frozen, without shoes, face down in a pool of her own blood. She was raped; her autopsy revealing that she died running over ice and snow until her lungs filled with blood from the cold.  Rookie FBI agent Jame Banner (Olsen) comes in from Las Vegas, if only because she is the nearest agent. I guess Wyoming doesn’t get a lot of law enforcement representation.

Her job: find out what happened and bring those responsible to justice.  Banner is at it alone, save for a few local police on an enormous Indian reservation.  She elicits the help of U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert (Renner), realizing that she’s in way over her head.

What’s Against Her

  • She has little support or leads.
  • She’s a rookie.
  • There is an expansive amount of land to cover.

What’s In Her Favor

  • Cory Lambert

Jane Banner: What is it that you do again?
Cory Lambert: I hunt predators.
Jane Banner: So why don’t you come hunt one for me then?

Lambert’s own daughter was found dead on the reservation years before, her story similar to the current case and also unsolved. The grief hasn’t left Lambert.

Lambert speaks to the ailing father of the deceased girl, letting him know that the pain of losing a child never truly leaves.  He tells him that he will never be the same again, never be whole.  It’s a telling and poignant description of this immense grief.  Lambert has not let it consume him however, and now he has an outlet for his pain; the people responsible for this young girl’s death, a stand in for his daughter.  Despite his past, he never loses control, always connected to his pain but not overcome by its frozen grip. This leads to his determined, calculated, and deadly demeanor.  It’s the most mesmerizing component of his character.

What follows is gritty, realistic police work; not the usual comfortable set of clues that you come to expect from a movie of this nature.

Speaking of nature, it is undeniable that the barren tundra of Wind River Indian Reservation is a character in this movie.  The unforgiving landscape of snowy mountains, sprawling woods, and freezing temperatures lends to the strange mixture of danger and beauty present throughout the film.  The unlikely teamwork of Lambert and Banner leads to an inevitable head on collision with the people responsible, but it also pushes Lambert and Banner into the dangerous wild— and land with only two options.

Cory Lambert: Out here you survive or you surrender. 


P.S. The movie ends with a statistic sprawled across the screen; specifically that statistics are kept for every group of missing people except Native American women. Nobody knows how many are missing.

I was talking with my brother and we agreed that this approach was a little heavy-handed.  I would have preferred this information to be shared in the actual story, preferably through character dialogue, not as writing on the screen.  Integrating this information into the power of the story would have been more effective.

4 Replies to “Movie Review: Wind River (2017)”

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