To be honest, I probably wouldn’t have gone to see this movie had I not had an afternoon to kill with a person who did not want to go and see ‘IT’, mixed with the fact that the showings for ‘The Hitman’s Bodyguard’ and ‘Logan Lucky’ were much later in the day. So fate played its hand leading me to sit in the cinema with a box of Pick n Mix and a large, mostly flat cup of Sprite to watch Wind River. I hadn’t seen any trailers for this AT ALL (which never bodes well) but had seen that both Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen starred, and that it had a good review score during the three seconds I spent googling it, so I settled in and awaited what the film had to offer.
Straight away the ‘Based on Actual Events’ title popped up and did nothing to ease the somewhat conflicting emotions I was already feeling. I have found that ‘Actual Event’ films are rather hit or miss as real life makes for boring viewing. One of the main reasons I don’t watch soap operas (or any other show of such ilk) is because I want to be swept up in a story, not watch “famous” people perform the tasks I probably would have participated in had I not gone to visit the cinema. Films like ‘Spotlight’ or ‘The Big Short’ are wonderful examples of ‘Actual Event’ cinema done brilliantly well, but aside from those two I struggle to think of other films.
Wind River sits firmly in the ‘Drama’ category but does dabble in the ‘Crime/Mystery’ zones as the story revolves around the murder of a local girl on modern day Native American land. Thankfully I was happy to see the prominent casting of Native American actors – not seen in such forefront roles since the Twilight Saga, I shit you not – with Renner and Olsen taking the parts of an outsider who married into a Native American family and the nearest FBI officer (who was still several states away) respectively.
Isolation is a big theme throughout the film and often leads sweeping vista shots or footage of characters travelling from one place to another, before quickly returning. However this theme proves to be more of a detriment to the story than anything else. I see what the filmmakers were trying to do, the whole plot of the film literally revolves around the fact that these characters are in the middle of nowhere, but by constantly giving us such scenes it really starts to feel more like filler than actual story.
When the plot does finally kick in it is easy to see that, in all honesty, there is not a lot of story elements at play. The quote unquote Mystery is not deep enough to explain the almost two hour running time. At one point even one of the characters points out that “this is solving itself” and he was completely right. When a murder that has hints of rape is committed and the only life within a five mile radius is an old farm house inhabited by an unseen OAP or a work site filled with a handful of quote unquote MEN (he writes, flexing to help cement the image in your head) it is pretty obvious where the first port of call should be. Yet the characters take a detour that, whilst admittedly helps to flesh out certain backstories, does little in terms of the MAIN story. Had I the time I would like to research into the actual events to find out what truly happened, not because this film interested me so much that I needed to know more, but because such an obvious thought process (Rape + the only men within many miles = murderer) was quickly skirted over. Yes, I understand that this was done for the aforementioned character development and to flesh out the run time – The fact that I had figured out the location of the killer within the first twenty minutes would make for a short film indeed – however it just made the events of the film feel somewhat pointless.
This is a real shame as this ‘Actual Event’ story has a point, mainly to highlight that countless Native American Women have gone missing over the years and that no agency goes to look for them. This is horribly tragic however it does not make up for the laboriousness of the film.
It is a sad and sombre point to end on and somewhat mishandled in its reveal, with text appearing over the final scene before the end credits rolled. As I left the cinema I did feel something for what I had learned, however this film did not pack enough of an emotional punch (as horrible as that sounds) to be the catalyst for worldwide change. Aside from myself and my companion, no one else in the cinema was under the age of sixty. Revealing such a sentiment to that demographic is not really going to do much.
Now even though I have pretty much complained about this film it is not that awful, I just don’t see it being a contender for anyones favourite film. Once it was over my companion (who was my Dad, constantly using the word companion makes it sound a bit weird) summed it up perfectly by saying that it is a “Sunday Afternoon film”. Which is entirely right, that is exactly what it is. The acting was great, not amazing but still worthy performances from all involved, but that is about it.
This film will fall at the wayside, which is kind of a shame due to the subject matter but just the way the film industry works. If I haven’t put you off then by all means watch it, but if I were you I would wait a few weeks after it has come out on DVD and pick it up once its slipped onto the £5 shelf at Asda.
Watch again? – No.
Buy on Dvd/Blu Ray – No.