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We’ve all been apart of this classic scenario – your sitting at home with nothing to do and Netflix comes to mind.

After logging in you scroll through endless  content popping out at you from the 3D Square images, and even after scrolling through your personal suggestions, sometimes none of these quite work out for you. Eventually an hour goes by and just as you’re about to re-binge a show you’ve seen a bunch of times, one item on Netflix catches your eye…you read the description and say ‘I’ll give it a try!”

We all know these tries can be hits or misses but when it’s a hit, its one of the greatest feelings ever. I had this feeling after watching Wind River, a film that was made last year but with a plot that is timeless

Wind River was Taylor Sheridan’s directorial debut, and might I say he did an amazing job. Sheridan is known for writing incredible and jarring stories such as Sicario and Hell or High Water and—that’s just a few of his notable works. Wind River was a different twist from his usual style of writing, but he delivers a story that is highly intense, and deeply sobering. It isn’t a film to be taken lightly and at the end of my review hopefully you will see why.

The film begins with a girl running for her life barefoot—literally—through the icy snow mountains of Wyoming.

We hear Natalie’s monologue about her deep love for someone as she falls to the ground sobbing and gasping. Eventually, she fights through it and runs off into the distance. We then see Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) partaking in his usual routine as a hunter of wild life on the reservation. Cory picks up his son from his ex wife to deliver him to his grandparents on the reservation, and after a strained conversation between the two its apparent that the ex-couple lost a daughter.

 

After Cory drops off his son with his grandparents he rides off to hunt mountain lions that have gotten to the livestock on the reservation. It is then he comes across the body of Natalie Henson, half buried in the snow, with a gash on her forehead and her pants aside. Cory, broken hearted, calls in the murder to the reservation chief, and the chief calls in federal agent Jane Banner (Emily Olsen), and the game is afoot so to speak. After Jane is taken to Natalie’s body she immediately declares it a homicide. However after she and Cory go to the medical examiner’s office the examiner declares as death by her lungs bursting from the cold air, or to put it short pulmonary hemorrhage. Its here that the problem lies, and why this chilling thriller sets in your bones.

It is law that the rape, murder, and kidnapping of Native American women can happen by a non-native American, and unless the man is caught under certain circumstances the reservation is powerless to do anything behind it. Upon Jane hearing that the medical examiner had to declare the death as essentially a cause due to the elements, Jane couldn’t take the proper steps to have it investigated. She, the reservation chief, Cory, and the examiner knew Natalie had been assaulted but without the stamp of a homicide it would go unresolved.

According to a 2012 New York Times article:

“American Indian women are 10 times as likely to be murdered than other Americans. They are raped or sexually assaulted at a rate four times the national average, with more than one in three having either been raped or experienced an attempted rape” (Williams, 2012).”

This is an injustice of the highest degree. These stats are staggering, and the efforts being done to eradicate this issue are mundane and nonexistent. But this isn’t the only issue that Sheridan highlights at the forefront of this film; he also deals the with the topic of drug abuse and how it drains life from the reservation as well.

After meeting Natalie’s parents it becomes known that she has a brother—Chip Hanson—who is selling drugs along with the LittleFeather brothers. Cory and Jane capture Chip after a shootout at the LittleFeather house – Chip then learns about the death of his sister and he wails in agony as did his parents. When Cory gets Chip alone he questions why he would associate himself with drugs, to which Chip replies about the hardships on life on the reservation, life on the mountains: “look what it makes you do…what it takes from us.”

This is another sobering and hard truth to learn. Life on the reservation can be one of the poorest, hardest, and most violent communities to live in. Legitimate jobs are scarce, social life strained, and if not for the upkeep of their cultural traditions (some of which they have to legally fight to continue), natives wouldn’t have any positive of their lives preserved. Never mind the wrong that was done of their people hundreds of years ago the major injustice of they continue to struggle today. Drugs and alchololism run rampant through their communities, violence at an all time high, and injustice of these crimes tend be to the norm.

After Chip reveals that Natalie had a boyfriend, a security guard for the oil rigs located on the mountains, Jane and Cory began the search for Matt. Cory finds snowmobile tracks leading up the mountain, he and Jane follow them, and it leads to the body of a dead young man in the snow his body being eaten by birds. While Cory continues to investigate the death on the mountain, Jane, the Chief and his deputies go to Matt’s trailer along with other security officers. These officers all have bruises on their face, evident they were involved in a scuffle, and one of the Native deputies realize that they are being flanked by the American security guards. A good ol’ fashion gun standoff ensues and only Jane’s rank as a FBI officer is the only way to get everyone to stand down. As she makes her way up to Matt trailer the flashback begins.

The final mystery is solved, Natalie visited Matt as she was truly in love with him, and after their intimacy each of them confess their dreams to leave the mountain. Matt’s co-workers come over drunk, the loudest and drunkest, Pete and they began teasing he and Natalie. A fight breaks out as Matt tries to save Natalie’s modesty, and she tries to keep them from beating Matt which lands her a hard hit to the head. She wakes up to the unthinkable with Pete on top of her, and as Matt tackles Pete his last plea is for Natalie to run. This sends her into the night, running to the mountain, and leads her to her death.

One of the most intense moments (in cinematic history is my opinion) takes off and this lands Jane in the hospital with Corey being the one to come in and finish the job. Corey captures Pete and takes him the mountain peak where he makes him confess to his assault of Natalie. Then Corey lets Pete die as Natalie did barefoot running for his life although he doesn’t nearly make it as far as she did.

 

So again, at the end of the film your left with formidable and grievous feeling with tough questions that still remain unanswered. Not in the sense of the film plots but in what comes after – how many stories like this happens? Why is it happening, and most importantly why isn’t anything being done to stop it? Sheridan delivers a gripping story filled with fear and intensity rarely seen in this magnitude. Every actor delivered on their performances and gave this chilling truth behind this story the respect it deserves. There were some flaws in the film but that can be expected in any directorial debut, but Sheridan hasn’t failed to deliver a thrilling experience in every film he writers and is definitely an artist on the rise.

I give Wind River a 8/10, and hope that everyone who leaves after seeing this film to think about the cost paid by natives living on the Wind River and those like it.

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