ACTOR-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan is a man on a roll.
Having penned two of the finest movies of the present decade in quick succession with Sicario and Hell or High Water, Sheridan has now earned a shot at directing his latest screenplay.
Much of Wind River takes place on the frigid snowscapes of a Native American reservation in Wyoming. It is here that a noticeably unprepared FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) has travelled to investigate a possible homicide.
Jane's only guide through this ravaged region - where the social, economic and cultural devastation is so complete, it often feels like an abandoned planet - is hard-bitten local game tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner).
Cory is a crack marksman whose job primarily involves eradicating all animals who prey on livestock in the area.
However, Cory and the unforgiving territory he covers have a history so intertwined and intimately sad that the more you come to know, the more you wish you didn't.
Those who have felt (with some justification) that Renner swiftly lost his way as an actor after drawing serious Oscar heat for The Hurt Locker will be heartened by the return to form his faultless performance signifies here.
The stilted repartee that Sheridan has written for Renner and Olsen (equally nailing her role) takes some getting used to, but the wait is worth it.
The pair are taking their characters on a journey from remote to relatable, and as they do, the harshly inscrutable part of the world in which they find themselves begins to make itself understood.
Two other behind-the-scenes factors bring us up close and personal with Wind River in subtle and affecting ways : the evocative decaying-frontier cinematography of Ben Richardson, and a starkly haunting music score from Nick Cave and Warren Ellis.
Though this (literally) chilly crime procedural lacks both the accessibility and urgency of Sheridan's two recent triumphs, it only furthers his reputation of one of the strongest storytellers in cinema right now.
Wind River opens nationally tomorrow.
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal, Julia Jones.
Director: Taylor Sheridan
Verdict: 4 stars
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