This film has a number of ingredients that, theoretically, should have made for an intensely gripping cinematic experience. The setting – a bleak, snow-covered wilderness and an American Indian reservation – is inherently atmospheric; the soundtrack by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis is eerie and evocative; and the dialogue is sharp.
Alas, the geographical context is the only one of these components which is consistently affecting. The music becomes intrusive and didactic – the whole story, indeed, starts to feel too emotionally manipulative – and the dialogue contains a few too many pithy aphorisms to seem like real conversation. But Jeremy Renner is predictably good as game tracker Cory Lambert, who happens across the body of an apparently murdered teenage girl. This reminds him of the tragic and as yet unexplained death of his own daughter a few years earlier. While the troubled and driven Cory has a great deal to do, the same cannot be said of brave but rather clueless FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), whom he assists in the ensuing criminal investigation.
Wind River definitely has its moments, and it’s certainly compelling enough for us to want to know how it will end. But it’s not much more than that, and it’s uneven. What’s more, there are implausible and even ridiculous contrivances, not least in the extended scenes of grisly Peckinpah-ish violence. As the directorial debut from the estimable screenwriter Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water), this has to be rated a disappointment.