Wind River (2017)

A fantastic, tight, atmospheric neo-western thriller of sorts from Taylor Sheridan.

The way Sheridan uses his settings, the social climate and political landscape of the United States, as almost characters of their own in his films (or at least “Wind River”, “Hell or High Water”, and “Sicario”) really appeals to me; his scripts are tight, economical, not overstuffed, and suggest enough to always remain compelling. Drawing conflict from the setting, letting characters loose in it, then holding back from going too heavy on plot, it works really well, and has seen his scripts come to life beautifully in collaboration with strong directors.

Here, Sheridan takes the director’s seat, and manages himself really well. This doesn’t feel like a flat attempt of a writer getting his work on screen, this feels like someone with actual visual and staging ideas – one shootout is staged so well, so tensely, that even though the setup and pacing of it at the script level is the real key, the film goes above and beyond to make the moment shine.

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Other directorial feints, keeping the structure of the story elusive and having fun with the visual presentation of scenes in certain orders, work really well too. There’s nothing groundbreaking here, but it’s all executed so well. Even the wham line of reality at the end, which would have been such an easy to think to mess up tonally, lands as it should. The film explores the tragedies and frustrations reservations face, and its fantastic cast imbue it with as much seriousness as it deserves.

More focus on atmosphere and character than plot. Impoverished areas of America rife with political and social concerns where morality is difficult to brook, and old cultures are fading away into the environment. Questions and complications of protocol, red tape, jurisdiction. These all seem to populate Sheridan’s neowestern scripts, and I could not be more on board for them. Three and a half gloves, and a pair of boots.

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