Wind River prom­ises to be a most un­ex­pected di­rec­to­rial de­but


AT FIRST GLANCE, Wind River seems like just an­other FBI pro­ce­dural, the story of a young girl found dead in sus­pi­cious cir­cum­stances. But di­rec­tor Tay­lor Sheri­dan’s de­but fea­ture — fol­low­ing his award-nom­i­nated screen­plays for Si­cario and Hell Or High Wa­ter — is any­thing but. Set on an In­dian reser­va­tion where out­siders can’t be trusted and the US gov­ern­ment of­fers lit­tle more than a shrug, this is pulp fic­tion drawn from hard po­lit­i­cal fact.

“It’s in­spired by mul­ti­ple true events,” re­veals Sheri­dan. “I was on a reser­va­tion 20 years ago,” he re­calls of the event clos­est to home, “camp­ing with some bud­dies, and this [Na­tive Amer­i­can] girl had dis­ap­peared. She was cap­tain of the bas­ket­ball team, she had a schol­ar­ship to col­lege, she was a leader, a warrior… and she was gone. Just gone. And as tragic as that was, no-one was sur­prised, be­cause it’s that com­mon.”

While Wind River has racism and dis­crim­i­na­tion in its sights, Sheri­dan bal­ances those heavy­weight themes with the thrill of the chase. His del­i­cate blend of so­cial cri­tique and story — Jeremy Ren­ner’s mav­er­ick game hunter and El­iz­a­beth Olsen’s FBI agent team up to solve the mys­tery of a girl’s death in Wy­oming’s Wind River Reser­va­tion — has a fit­tingly hard-hit­ting an­tecedent. “I’ve al­ways said that the great­est movie ever made would be Michael Mann’s The In­sider with a gun­fight,” he says. “He builds so much ten­sion through ar­gu­ments about non-dis­clo­sure agree­ments, he makes it feel like you are go­ing to die if some­one vi­o­lates that agree­ment. At the same time, it’s about the fail­ure of the news sys­tem. It mat­ters, [and] I try to make movies that mat­ter too.”

The de­ci­sion to direct, he ex­plains, was made grudg­ingly. “I’d much pre­fer not to,” he laughs. “I love sit­ting in my cabin in the woods, writ­ing, hav­ing a glass of wine. Then I hit send, it goes away, and some­one sends me a cheque.” But while Si­cario and Hell Or High Wa­ter were so im­pres­sively trans­lated from page to screen by De­nis Vil­leneuve and David Macken­zie re­spec­tively, he felt that this story needed him be­hind the cam­era. “I just didn’t trust that I could get that lucky a third time,” he says.

It was im­por­tant, he stresses, to get this story about the Na­tive Amer­i­can com­mu­nity right. “Could some­one else have di­rected this film bet­ter?” he asks. “I’m cer­tain. But at least I can look those guys in the eye and say, ‘Hey man, I told your story the way I said I would. I kept my word.’ And that mat­tered to me the most.”


FBI agent Jane (El­iz­a­beth Olsen).

Be­low: Olsen with di­rec­tor Tay­lor Sheri­dan.

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