Plot:After a frozen body is found in Wyoming, a tracker and an FBI agent attempt to solve the mystery.
Review:Writer & director Taylor Sheridan's two previous screenplays, 'Hell or High Water' and 'Sicario', took a look at what you might call fringe America (or some kind of frontier) giving the feel, at least in the case of 'Hell or High Water', of a modern Western. They make for fascinating viewing and end up being full of character. And it would seem that 'Wind River' carries on with the same approach.
Ignoring the setting for a moment, 'Wind River' has a fairly straight-forward plot about a murder. Taking it in isolation, it's nothing particularly standout with some predictable dialogue at times and familiar characterisation (though, thankfully, it shies away from any romance. A big relief because it did look like it was going to throw away all its good work for a moment). Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen both provide solid performances and the story is competent. It's simply that, on its own, it doesn't amount to that much.
What makes all the difference is the setting and the way Sheridan, as with 'Hell or High Water', really brings life and personality to the environment and community giving the film another dimension to work with that gives more depth to the central story. Firstly, the environment is stunning (reminiscent of 'The Revenant' with the snowy landscapes, just a little less self-indulgent). But it's not just that. The film utilises the isolated, hostile (yet very beautiful) scenery to great effect. It is hard not to feel the chill and this is brilliantly used to reinforce the ambiance of what is a very lonely, marginalised location.
Within this setting is the community, which mostly consists of a native American population seeing as this takes place on a reservation. Again, like 'Hell or High Water', though perhaps not quite as strongly, there's plenty of character in the various folk the protagonists interact with even if many encounters can be brief. And through them there are interesting discussions on the state of their community, the marginalisation, the history, and so on.
When everything is added together, it creates quite a compelling watch that has had me mulling it over in the few days after I saw it. The central plot functions, even if it is unspectacular on its own, but what really gives the film it's life is the setting and how it uses and explores it.