It’s amazing that Taylor Sheridan went from being an actor on Sons of Anarchy, to writing the screenplay for Sicaro, and then his Oscar-nominated screenplay for Hell or High Water. Now he wrote this, and steps behind the camera for the first time.
The story takes place on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, a U.S. Fish & Wildlife tracker that keeps wolves and mountain lions from killing livestock. Lambert comes across a dead woman (Kelsey Chow), barefoot in the snow. Young FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is brought in to investigate.
The first half of the movie is slow paced and a bit underwritten. Thankfully things pick up in the second half of the two-hour picture. Sheridan might have borrowed the snow from Tarantino’s Hateful Eight, and Mexican stand-off from a few Tarantino pictures, but he mostly borrowed from his previous works. In fact, Graham Greene, playing a tribal officer, seems to be combining the Jeff Bridges and Gil Birmingham characters from Hell or High Water all into one.
On the subject of the cast, Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen, both from the Avengers, are a lot more heroic than when they employ their superhero powers. It’s also nice that Sheridan downplays character traits. Perhaps the only thing that would’ve worked better for Renner’s character is if he gave less advice/monologues, and a few less “let me show you something” lines. He seems like a great father to his son, but his ex-wife (Julia Jones of Twilight) is rather somber. That character should’ve been done differently. If Lambert is stoic and grieving, it works. Not so much with her, though.
It’s refreshing that the Banner character, like Jodi Foster in Silence of the Lambs, might be a rookie, but is also smart and not someone you can just take advantage of. It’s also nice that they don’t make her a love-interest for Lambert.
Jon Bernthal has a terrific scene, which is as powerful and disturbing as the rape scene in Nocturnal Animals.
It was nice to see Birmingham with a good role in this picture, as the father of a murdered daughter.
The story dabbles in social issues and we’re shown lots of poverty on the reservation. One character says, “Snow and silence are the only things that haven’t been taken from these people.” And at the end of the movie we’re shown a statistic about missing Native American women.
The score from Nick Cave/Warren Ellis has some gloomy piano, violins, and Native American chants, which take some getting used to. It works, though.
The film is shot beautifully.
There are times the movie becomes a whodunit. Other times, a revenge piece. It’s a little bit formula, and not as strong dialogue as previous Sheridan pictures.
It’s certainly worthy of your time, though.
3 ½ stars out of 5.