Friday, July 14, 2017

Movie Review: Emotions sink like a stone in dried up 'Wind River'

The Weinstein Company
Wind River (2017, directed by Taylor Sheridan. U.S.A., English, Color, 111 minutes) In his directorial debut following his Oscar nomination for writing last year's "Hell or High Water", Taylor Sheridan continues his passion for crime with "Wind River", the incredibly mean-spirited and drab story about a young girl found frozen to death in the middle of a Wyoming Indian reservation. Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen team up as the Fish and Wildlife Service officer and FBI agent, respectively, tasked with combating personal conflicts and cultural differences to solve the crime in the barren, frozen lands.

"Wind River" has the feel of a mediocre police TV series crossed with a half-assed attempt to copy a style The Coen Brothers have perfected long ago. The characters sulk around with such repressed feelings about a past tragedy that it drags them and the movie down in its own self-pity. Why does it have to be that the crime an officer is investigating has to trigger a similar offense they had personally experienced before? Renner takes that role in this film as he balances comforting others for their hardships and then mopes around in his own sadness later because of the death of his daughter. 

As far as style goes, well, it's not to be found in either Sheridan's direction or his writing. The film follows this pattern in rhythm: character exposition; police banter; more character exposition; more bantering; a shootout. Take those five moments and repeat them until you have a feature length film. The writing is so pretentious as it attempts to peel back the layers of its two-dimensional characters that it comes off as the work of a struggling film student than an Oscar nominee. What's worse is that the film takes such a sharp, mean, distasteful turn in the third act that you can't believe what's happening. Innocence is assaulted by split-second rage that could not be diffused by guns like any other rage-induced moment in the film. It begged me to ask how such a major part of the movie could happen in what is shown to be an area littered with guns. Protection with firearms is only warranted when the police is involved. An innocent young girl defending herself must include as much punching and raping as possible. It's cruel to watch, and crueler to think that this couldn't have been stopped. Worse, it tells me that gun violence against the police and the assault of a young woman are both OK, the latter being even worse off because it's used as a plot device. I felt horrible watching this movie.

Further, there's a sequence leading up to the finale that looks like a commercial promoting snowmobiles as a train of them piled up with law enforcement officers set out to a location. I didn't understand why there was this two-minute segment that hyped up something great to come without explanation. Why the urgency and the flashy camerawork? That already insists that something big is going to happen soon. If it weren't flashy, we wouldn't care. Sheridan undermines his audience by over-explaining backstories and fleshing out too much style to get us interested in the finale. Editing of both of those areas would have made a cleaner film.

This movie lacked any real interesting characters - save for Graham Greene as the police chief of the reservation - or suspense or thrills. The scariest part for me was when the yarn I was using to knit a dishcloth during the movie almost rolled off my lap. My legs jumped in surprise as I steadily grabbed for it. That was the most intense part of the movie and it wasn't even up on the screen. "Wind River" blindly navigates boring terrain along a stone cold riverbed.

Rating: F

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