Wind River is one of the largest Indian nature reserves in the United States. The descendants of indigenous Americans, who are forgotten by the contemporary mass culture and its participants, live in here in horrible conditions. Media would find their stories interesting if they were more compatible with the picture of normative society. Their world is composed of alcohol, drugs, and lack of perspectives – especially when it comes to young generation who is aware of the existence different reality and rejects the ethos of tradition. They belong neither to the world of their parents nor to the modern society, which makes their situation tragic and pathetic at the same time. The status of “the others” that the “normal” (white) world does not want to see becomes an excuse for passivity that slowly turns into frustration that leads not only to depression, but also to violence and crimes…
Murders and disappearance happen here more often than the authorities would like to admit. One day, a local hunter (Jeremy Renner) who works for a federal government agency finds himself in a frozen snow-covered area in front of a raped teenage girl’s body. He knew her well; she was a friend of his daughter. Anger tears him apart, but he knows that the murderer is not likely to be caught. He already saw and experienced such tragedies. This time, however, it will be different. A young, inexperienced FBI agent, who is not affected yet by cynical attitude of older colleagues, arrives to the reserve and will do her best to find justice. Cory (the hunter) will be her driver, guide, and – last but not least – partner in the investigation, who will prove that sometimes life experience is more valuable that knowledge of paragraphs and schemes. The surrounding areas are inhabited by a small, closed community that does not facilitate the investigation. What makes the whole case even worse is the fact that a snowstorm is coming, which will soon erase all traces and turn this murder into another story that discredits both – local police and entire justice system that lets murders be free. The trader must act quickly and take risks that he has not yet dealt with. The mystery he will solve may be the last answer that he will find in his life.
What’s important, “Wind River” is not only a criminal puzzle. The director of the movie, Taylor Sheridan, focuses on a very serious social problem. It turns out that in the United States women of Indian descent are not included in the register of missing persons when they disappear. Why does not anyone care about the fate of indigenous people of America? The camera takes us to the places that are so hostile that even law enforcement agencies can not feel safe (what we will see in one of the final scenes of the movie). It looks like evil celebrates here its constants and repetitive triumphs that are possible not only because of its power, but also, or above all, because of silent agreement of good people who don’t participate in its actions, but remain passive, which makes them accomplices. Fortunately, in this scary, cold place that even God has forgotten, there still are people who are capable of heroic actions and standing up for truth and justice.
“Wind River” could be described as a postcolonial treatise on nature and tribalism. The director constructs a visual essay on the relation between Indian and (modern) American worlds, which at the same time becomes a critical, radical, and brutal tale about both: essence of masculinity and the condition of the human psyche in extreme conditions and absolute loneliness. Sheridan’s movie in many ways criticizes police procedures and excessive bureaucracy that sometimes make the mission (investigation) impossible to be performed properly. The director repeatedly demonstrates that reality is more complex than it is usually presented in the official documents. What’s important to highlight, these elements are only the background for the mains story. Criticism is clear, but it does not overshadow the existential drama of the protagonists. It’s rather another context of the action than its motor. “Wind River” is a great criminal story, directed in the way that could be described as simple and brilliant at the same time. The director turns out to be a master of subtlety who knows how to move the viewers without tear-jerking them.