Working solely behind the pen up until now, for his latest screenplay, the brilliant Taylor Sheridan steps behind the camera for his directorial debut: Wind River. Ahead of its Home Entertainment release next week, here’s my Blu-Ray review.

There is something cold and desolate about the film’s opening, crisply shot yet isolated and almost empty in its nature. It’s a fitting encapsulation of the film itself. In that opening, we see a young girl – Natalie Hanson (Kelsey Chow), as we later discover her to be - barely dressed and running in the snow; it’s clear her time is limited. We cut to Corey Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a game tracker, who stumbles upon Natalie’s dead body. When the cause of death is found to be rape, Lambert teams up with FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to track down the killer in the barren, snowy reservation of Wyoming – the latter, equipped with all the FBI knowledge and tricks; the former, brought in for his knowledge of the land and his credible ability to catch a predator.

Similarly to Sicario and Hell or High Water before it, Sheridan’s bleak and gritty fingertips are very much evident in the writing of Wind River – this is a man that knows how to bring desolation and intensity to a script, and his latest might offer that more so than his prior work. But what Wind River lacks, that Sicario and Hell or High Water have, is that oomph and style; yes, this is a sharply written film, but he has no Denis Villeneuve or David Mackenzie helming his latest story this time around and Wind River feels very empty on that front. It’s certainly a competently directed film for a first effort and the story plays out cohesively enough. But that’s all it does. It plays out. It doesn’t linger, it doesn’t quite pack a punch. It just happens. It’s a standard three-act piece and this mainly rests on the fact that the directing seems uninspired – it’s minimalistic in its simplicity but not in a way that feels like it works for the story but, rather, against it in this case.
The writing, however, is expectedly great. Sheridan is one of the best currently in the industry in putting pen to paper and crafting such visceral character scripts. The dialogue is sharp and the characters well-realised. But, again, compared to his last two screenplays, this is perhaps his weakest. It’s the grittiest and most intense of his three, dealing with some dark ideas and taking his characters to some intense situations, but it doesn’t quite offer up the masterful level of depth and nuance that we have seen from him in the past. Or perhaps it is and perhaps it feels a little lost in the execution and directorial handling of the screenplay. Renner and Olsen both excel in their respective roles, however, and their chemistry is magnetic to watch; the former is the best he has been in years, giving a very grounded and charismatic performance here, and Olsen is equally as subdued and brilliant.

Wind River is certainly a very enjoyable character-piece; there is enough to like about it but, given who the film is coming from (probably my favourite writer working today that isn’t Aaron Sorkin), it feels a little disappointing and lacking. The cinematography is fittingly crisp and hostile; the performances are riveting, and the characters and dialogue are thoroughly engaging. But the lack of style makes this a film devoid of any personality and flavour and make it one that, as enjoyable and slickly written as it is, is fairly forgettable after a while. The Blu-Ray special features don’t boast a whole lot either, some deleted scenes and a behind-the-scenes with Renner, Sheridan and Olsen which is actually quite entertaining. Back to the film itself, though, for a first directing effort, we’ve seen worse. And I look forward to seeing where Sheridan’s directing goes and what sort of story he cooks up for us next. Even after this, it’s hard to deny that he is a talent.

WIND RIVER IS ON DVD & BLU-RAY FROM JANUARY 22ND, 2018.

VERDICT:

Wind River is yet another sharp screenplay from the brilliant Taylor Sheridan, albeit one that lacks the personality and stylish direction to really stick the landing.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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