Mount St. Joseph University

Film Review: “Wind River”

Dateline: student newspaper

By: Michael Mullin

File Under: dateline, film review

“Luck don’t live out here.” One of the more chilling quotes that came from the intense thriller Wind River. Once again Taylor Sheridan has written another blockbuster thriller for us, and this time he’s behind the camera as well. Some of the films that you may have seen that he has written in the past have been films such as Hell or High Water and Sicario. He’s made his way to the top of the industry as a writer and now has a director's hat he can throw in the trophy case.

Wind River was one of the last films to come out this summer that made a huge impact in the film world. It focuses on a veteran tracker, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) with the Fish and Wildlife Service, who with the help of an FBI agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) investigates the rape and murder of a young Native American woman. They all end up using the case as a means of seeking redemption for an earlier act of irresponsibility which ended in tragedy.

One of the hidden statistics in the United States is the number of Native American women who go missing every year while they live on reservations. One of the problems with any Native American reservation is that it is not technically under the United States jurisdiction. They are recognized domestic nations within a larger nation. In other words, they’re just like states, but they have special protections under the law because of the land that they claim as their own.

When it comes down to law enforcement, things get a little tricky. As of 2016, a new Department of Justice study confirmed that after 2,000 women were surveyed, 84% of Native American and Alaskan Native American women have experienced sexual violence. Over 90% have experienced violence at the hands of a non-tribal member. Half of the women studied stated that they have experienced physical violence such as pushing and shoving and even being beaten. This doesn’t account for the 60% who claimed that they experienced psychological aggression or coercive control. Apparently, it’s a normal thing that happened to women on reservations around the nation. I bring these statistics up because this is what the film is all about. I think it’s good that you know some of these things before you go off and watch this thriller tonight. Things are not squeaky clean on reservations. Like anywhere else, violence continues to spring up.

One of the coolest reasons this film was even made is because of the lack of statistics on the number of women sexually assaulted and women who have gone missing on Native American reservations in the last decade. It’s an uncomfortable truth that the director, Taylor Sheridan, had to deal with. He sent out two researchers to find the statistics on how many women had gone missing while living on reservations and they came back without a statistic. Sheridan eventually understood that this was his statistic. He decided it would now turn into a film about the lack of care and responsibility that is shown towards these women who live in fear constantly. There’s this perception the men have on these reservations that because they live in areas like North Dakota or Montana no one will care about the women who go missing or are raped. Women are buried in the snowy mountains and are never found, sometimes eaten or buried for years and decaying. It’s a sad truth that has haunted these reservations for years. 

The reason I find this film is so well done and written is that it follows the recent trend that I hope to see in the future. It shows a federal agent working for the FBI who just happens to be a woman in charge of the case. She’s unfamiliar with the land and how the natives on the reservation work, but that’s where Jeremy Renner’s character, Cory, comes in. Throughout the film, he works with the detective to help discover the truth behind who raped and assaulted  Natalie (Kelsey Asbille). It’s an amazing crime thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat. I enjoyed this film sp much is because not only does it bring awareness to the lack of attention spent on the sexual and physical assault and murder that goes on inside the homes of those who live on these Indian reservations, but it also reminds us of the ongoing domestic violence and rape cases that seem to have plagued our nation as of late. I think that this film was excellently written and directed by an up and coming star.

If you have any interest in criminology, law enforcement, sexual assault cases or federal law in regards to reservations in general, I implore you to go and see or rent this film if. Try and research what you can after the movie. I was shocked to read the statistics at the end of the film, but it made me all the more aware of the world we currently live. I urge you to watch it either way, even if you have no interest in any of the things I listed.