Wind River (film)
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Taylor Sheridan|
|Written by||Taylor Sheridan|
|Edited by||Gary D. Roach|
|Distributed by||The Weinstein Company[a]|
|Box office||$45 million|
Wind River is a 2017 neo-Western murder mystery film written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. The film stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracker and an FBI agent, respectively, who try to solve a murder on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal and Graham Greene also star. According to Sheridan, the opening "inspired by true events" card was a reference to the "thousands of actual stories just like it" involving sexual assault of women on reservations, his primary motivation for writing the film.
Wind River premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was released in the United States on August 4, 2017. The film received positive reviews from critics and was a box office success, grossing $45 million against an $11 million budget. While theatrically released by The Weinstein Company, in October 2017, following the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations, the film's distribution rights for home media were acquired by Lionsgate, with Weinstein's credits and logo being omitted on home media and streaming services, which caused TWC to lose distribution rights.
During a winter season in Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, expert tracker and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert discovers the frozen body of 18-year-old Natalie Hanson who was barefoot, without proper winter attire, miles from any building, and had a blood-stained groin. FBI special agent Jane Banner arrives to investigate a possible homicide. The next day, Jane learns from Natalie's father, Martin, that his daughter was dating a new boyfriend, but he does not know the man's name or whereabouts. The autopsy shows blunt trauma and sexual violence and confirms Cory's deduction that the girl died from exposure, specifically pulmonary hemorrhage caused by rapid inhalation of sub-zero air. However, the medical examiner is unable to confirm the death as a homicide, therefore preventing Jane from calling in an additional FBI investigative unit.
Cory discovers that Natalie's boyfriend is Matt Rayburn who works security at a nearby oil drilling site. The next day, Matt's body is discovered, nude and heavily ravaged by scavenging wildlife. Cory tells Jane about his daughter's death three years earlier, whose body was discovered in the snow, following a party while he and his wife were away.
Jane, accompanied by Tribal Police Chief Ben Shoyo and additional officers, visit the drill site where they meet with several of the security guards. They report that Matt stormed off a few days ago following an argument with Natalie and has not been seen since. One guard mentions that they heard about Natalie's body being found by monitoring law enforcement radio channels. Jane points out that Natalie's name was not given out. One of the police officers notices that the security guards are slowly surrounding Jane and her team. The confrontation quickly escalates into an armed standoff as they argue over who has jurisdiction. Jane defuses the situation by asserting FBI authority. She asks to see where Matt was bunking, and they resume their approach to the trailer.
A flashback then depicts Natalie in bed with Matt in his trailer. Unexpectedly, his security colleagues barge into the trailer after a night of hard drinking. Pete, a particularly vulgar crew member, taunts them and tries to sexually assault Natalie, which provokes Matt to violence. The guards retaliate by beating Matt down while Pete rapes Natalie. Matt's attempt to fight back gives Natalie an opportunity to escape, but the group bludgeon him to death.
Back in the present, Cory has retraced the tracks from where Matt's corpse was found back to the drilling camp. Meanwhile, Jane and the police approach the drill crew's sleeping quarters. Cory, standing at a distance on a hill above the camp and looking down at the group, radios a warning to Ben but not before Jane, wearing a bullet-proof vest, is hit in the chest by a shotgun blast fired through the door by Pete, wounding her. An all out firefight at point blank range ensues, in which Ben and the other officers are killed. As the surviving security guards prepare to execute Jane, Cory arrives on the scene and picks four of them off with his high caliber rifle, except for Pete, who, though wounded, flees on foot. Cory catches Pete and takes him up a mountain top. After forcing Pete's confession, Cory offers him the same chance Natalie had: a barefooted escape toward a distant road wearing light-weight clothing. Pete runs through the snow but quickly succumbs as his lungs give out from the same pulmonary hemorrhage that killed Natalie.
Cory visits Jane in the hospital and praises her toughness. He later visits Martin, finding him sitting outside his house wearing his "death face" paint and holding a handgun. Cory tells Martin that the case is closed and that the man responsible for Natalie's death went out, "with a whimper." They share grief over their daughters' deaths. A title card states that missing-persons statistics are kept for every demographic group except for Native American women, whose numbers remain unknown.
- Jeremy Renner as Cory Lambert, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent. He discovers the frozen body of Natalie Hanson. FBI special agent Jane Banner recruits him to help her solve the case. He uses the case as redemption for his daughter Emily, who died in the wilderness, similar to Natalie's death.
- Elizabeth Olsen as Jane Banner, a rookie FBI special agent. She recruits Cory as her tracker to help her solve the case.
- Graham Greene as Ben Shoyo, Tribal Police chief. He assists Jane and Cory to solve the possible murder of Natalie Hanson.
- Kelsey Chow as Natalie Hanson, Martin and Annie's daughter and Chip's sister. She was best friends with Cory's late daughter, Emily. Her death is the main catalyst for the events of the film.
- Gil Birmingham as Martin Hanson, Annie's husband and Chip and Natalie's father. He is also Cory's close friend.
- Julia Jones as Wilma Lambert, Cory's ex-wife and Emily and Casey's mother.
- Martin Sensmeier as Chip Hanson, Martin and Annie's son and Natalie's brother. He is also a drug addict.
- Althea Sam as Annie Hanson, Martin's wife and Chip and Natalie's mother.
- Teo Briones as Casey Lambert, Cory and Wilma's son.
- Apesanahkwat as Dan Crowheart, Wilma's father.
- Tantoo Cardinal as Alice Crowheart, Wilma's mother.
- Jon Bernthal as Matt Rayburn, Natalie's boyfriend.
- James Jordan as Pete Mickens, Matt's co-worker.
- Hugh Dillon as Curtis, Matt's superior.
- Matthew Del Negro as Dillon, Matt's co-worker.
- Austin Grant as Carl.
- Ian Bohen as Evan, a Fremont County Sheriff deputy
- Eric Lange as Dr. Randy Whitehurst, medical examiner who provides the autopsy on Natalie's body.
- Tyler Laracca as Frank Walker, Chip's friend and a drug dealer.
- Gerald Tokala Clifford as Sam Littlefeather, Chip's friend and a drug dealer.
The film is the third installment of Taylor Sheridan's trilogy of "the modern-day American frontier", the first being Sicario in 2015 and Hell or High Water the next year. Principal photography on the film began on March 12, 2016 in Utah and lasted until April 25, 2016.
The Weinstein Company acquired the distribution rights on May 13, 2016, during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. In January 2017, it was announced that the company would no longer distribute the film, but the distribution deal was later finalized. It had a limited release on August 4, 2017, before going wide on August 18.
In October 2017, it was announced the film would be distributed on home media and streaming services through Lionsgate with the Weinstein Company name and logo omitted from the credits, trailer, and packaging, because of the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal. As a result, The Weinstein Company finally stopped distributing the film. All money Weinstein would have made was donated to charity.
Wind River grossed $33.9 million in the United States and Canada and $13.1 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $47 million, against a production budget of $11 million.
In the film's limited opening weekend, it made $161,558 from four theaters (a per-location average of $40,390, one of the best of 2017), finishing 29th at the box office. In its second week the film expanded to 45 theaters and grossed $622,567. The film expanded to 694 theaters on August 18 and grossed $3 million, finishing 10th at the box office. The following week the film was added to an additional 1,401 theaters (for a total of 2,095) and made $4.6 million (an increase of 54.6%), managing to finish 4th at the box office. The film was added to yet another 507 theaters and made $5.7 million the following weekend, and an estimated $7.2 million over the four-day Labor Day weekend, finishing in the 2nd spot at the U.S. box office consistently for the next 13 days. It was the 6th-highest grossing indie film of 2017.
On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 87% based on 231 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "Wind River lures viewers into a character-driven mystery with smart writing, a strong cast, and a skillfully rendered setting that delivers the bitter chill promised by its title." On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating "generally very favorable reviews". Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film a 90% overall positive score and a 70% "definite recommend".
Owen Gleiberman of Variety described Wind River as a "humanistic crime drama, though this one has more skill than excitement". Chris Plante of The Verge described it as "a thrilling, violent finale to the Hell or High Water and Sicario trilogy" and "Coen brothers noir meets the case of the week."
Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers praised Sheridan's direction and the cast, giving the film 3/4 stars. He wrote: "[It's] the set-up for what could have been a conventional whodunit – thankfully, Sheridan is allergic to all things conventional. To him, the action is character, and he's lucked out by finding actors who not only understand his approach but thrive on it." David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a B, writing: "[If] Wind River shares Sheridan’s self-evident weaknesses, it also makes the most of his signature strengths. [...] Wind River may not blow you away, but this bitter, visceral, and almost paradoxically intense thriller knows what it takes to survive."
In a High Country News article titled "Why do white writers keep making films about Indian Country?", Native commentator Jason Asenap praises the film as "a thinking-person's thriller" full of complex characters and describes the film's focus on missing Native American women as "admirable."
|Award||Date of ceremony||Category||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Result||Ref(s)|
|Cannes Film Festival||May 28, 2017||Prix Un Certain Regard||Taylor Sheridan||Nominated|||
|Un Certain Regard for Best Director||Taylor Sheridan||Won|
|Caméra d'Or||Taylor Sheridan||Nominated|
|National Board of Review||November 28, 2017||Top Ten Independent Film||Wind River||Won|||
|Satellite Awards||February 11, 2018||Best Actor||Jeremy Renner||Nominated|||
|Saturn Awards||June 27, 2018||Best Thriller Film||Wind River||Nominated|||
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