A snowy noir with a few reser­va­tions

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - FILM REVIEWS - TARA BRADY

WIND RIVER ★★★★ Di­rected by Tay­lor Sheri­dan. Star­ring Jeremy Ren­ner, El­iz­a­beth Olsen, Gil Birm­ing­ham, Jon Bern­thal, Julia Jones, Kelsey Chow, Gra­ham Greene, Kelsey As­bille. Cert 16, gen re­lease, 107mins

Tay­lor Sheri­dan’s script cred­its in­clude last year’s hit neo-western Hell and High Wa­ter. Squint through the snows­capes by direc­tor of photography Ben Richard­son and this pro­ce­dural could be High Wa­ter’s win­try cousin. Like many sim­i­larly snowy Scandi-crime sagas, Wind River be­gins with the corpse of a young woman. Natalie (Kelsey As­bille) has been raped and has run a con­sid­er­able dis­tance on her badly frost­bit­ten feet be­fore suc­cumb­ing to pul­monary haem­or­rhage caused by rapid in­hala­tion of sub-zero air.

That is the very spe­cific opin­ion of Cory Lam­bert ( Ren­ner) the US Fish and Wildlife Ser­vice agent who dis­cov­ers the body while out track­ing a fam­ily of moun­tain lions. His quick med­i­cal ap­praisal im­presses Jane Ban­ner ( Olsen), a young FBI rookie who ar­rives on the scene, ill-pre­pared for both the weather and a mur­der in­ves­ti­ga­tion. “See what they sent us?” scoffs the lo­cal tribal sher­iff, Ben (Gra­ham Greene). So far, so Nordic noir. But

Wind River’s strong sense of place dif­fer­en­ti­ates the film from the rest of the genre. The run­down reser­va­tion of the ti­tle, a place of “snow and si­lence”, is de­fined by so­cio-eco­nomic de­pri­va­tion, drug abuse and vi­o­lence. The mur­der vic­tim, it tran­spires, is not the only young woman to meet an un­timely end in this far-flung, at-risk com­mu­nity. With limited re­sources, Cory, Jane, Ben and sev­eral troop­ers are work­ing against the clock. “This isn’t the land of back-up, Jane,” ex­plains Ben. “This is the land of ‘You’re on your own’.”

Weary, re­silient lo­cals trade in dark, cyn­i­cal hu­mour: one elder drily pre­dicts a fu­ture wherein “the world starts eat­ing their golden re­triev­ers”. Nick Cave and War­ren El­lis’s

Lit­tle to do: El­iz­a­beth Olsen

score is as sparse as the frozen horizons.

It’s un­for­tu­nate that the hero­ics fall to Jeremy Ren­ner. The ac­tor, in his defence, has never been better, but a gen­uine Na­tive Amer­i­can ought to have been cast in a role that en­tails ref­er­ence to “my peo­ple” and “my fam­ily” (The get-out clause: Cory was for­merly mar­ried to a na­tive Amer­i­can).

The screen­play can sound a lit­tle too much like the re­jigged draft of a novel or play (Jon Bern­thal, on ex­cel­lent form, turns up to de­liver what can only be de­scribed as a so­lil­o­quy). The female char­ac­ters need some work: Olsen, in par­tic­u­lar, is given com­par­a­tively lit­tle to do. It’s a com­pelling pro­ce­dural, none­the­less.

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