by Quendrith Johnson, Los Angeles Correspondent
Jeremy Renner so far, except for his turn in Affleck’s THE TOWN where he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor in 2011, has not been known for switching up his game. Until WIND RIVER, co-starring Elizabeth Olsen with Graham Greene, that is.
Even as Renner received a Best Actor Oscar nom for HURT LOCKER in 2010, there was almost a built-in plausibility to that character. In WIND RIVER, there’s a built-in implausibility to his hunter-tracker character that separates this performance from anything Renner has done to date. He’s ‘not that guy,’ in other words, but he plays this guy so well that Jeremy Renner deserves some recognition for this one.
What’s the movie about? An unsolved murder of a Native American woman, whose brutal end echoes a loss for Renner’s character and his First Nations wife. But that is just a starting point. Olsen is the FBI agent called in to investigate, and she’s perfectly cast. And this isn’t just a snowy whodunit, ps, not at all.
The director is Taylor Sheridan, actor from FX TV series “Sons of Anarchy,” who sharpened his storytelling skills as the writer of SICARIO (2015). He had a role in HELL OR HIGH WATER, which he also wrote, and leads us to the next actor to break out in WIND RIVER.
Gil Birmingham, yes, that guy we’ve seen for years in movies — most notably as the affable wolf-pack father Billy Black in the mawkish TWILIGHT series. Now he gets his game upped too. In fact, Birmingham’s performance is almost a personal essay on Native American portrayal in Hollywood movies, with a performance piece aspect. Imagine, going from camp “Indian Chief” on TV series “Charmed” to serviceable in HELL OR HIGH WATER to superb in WIND RIVER. Gil Birmingham has been Everyman of First Nations’ roles on screen; in WIND RIVER, he plays out the hidden conflicted emotions of being Native and American.
Truth be told, this movie wasn’t even on the radar of must-see’s, just a recommend from a screenwriter friend. And then? Remember how WINTER’S BONE catapulted Jennifer Lawrence into prominence? Well, WIND RIVER has that feeling with the brutality of silence, bitter cold, but with First Nations people enduring the white cold and the deafening winter. It is a must-see.
Here’s Your Quick Look at WIND RIVER
The Weinstein Company (TWC) released this film Aug. 4, after a showing at Sundance earlier in the year. TWC is not even throwing it late in the year to hype their Oscar chances. But if you want to know why WIND RIVER is more compelling in many ways than a front-runner like DUNKIRK? With DUNKIRK, you’re watching a filmmaker, Chris Nolan. In WIND RIVER, you’re watching a film. Storyteller versus storytelling.
WIND RIVER is why movies are so important, because we can share an experience and go into a story with some remarkable performances, not to mention a look into lives we don’t often see on screen with such balance and counterbalance. It’s that experience of being in the dark to see moments on screen that shed light on who we are as people, native or not, American or not, but moviegoers all.
Find the movie here on Facebook. Then go see it. Seriously.
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