With Hell or High Water, screenwriter Taylor Sheridan accomplished the neat trick of evoking new empathy for the enduring Native American plight by dovetailing it with the struggles of a modern white man facing foreclosure on the family farm. With Wind River, he takes over directing duties as well, and attempts to garner similar empathy for Native American women — for whom, we are informed, there is no specific missing persons registry. The cause is just and the ambition is admirable, but the result is middling in both the writing and directing departments. Again, he ties the plight of the Native victim — who opens the film in a terrified barefoot dash through miles of moonlit snow while a voiceover describes “a meadow in my perfect world” — to a modern white man. This time, it’s predator hunter Jeremy Renner, who lost his own half-Native daughter years earlier. But Renner, whose paunchy visage here fits the part, is not really allowed to suffer. Instead, he’s forced to play the Voice of Wisdom Learned, making oracular proclamations like “Luck don’t live out here; luck lives in the city” and “No matter how far you think she ran, I can guarantee she ran farther.” A little of this goes a long way, and Sheridan serves up an awful lot of it, together with plenty of people-going-places footage and a wasted Elizabeth Olsen as Clarice Starling in a snowsuit.
Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes