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Wind River

The best types of thrillers are ones using locations to their fullest. Whilst indoor-set mysteries are still good, there’s something about being in open spaces that increases the tension and atmosphere. It’s as if secrets can be unearthed anywhere at any given moment that makes things more impactful. ‘Wind River’ uses this motif very well. It’s a genuinely suspenseful film with the harsh and rugged locations adding immeasurably to a mood refusing to let go until the final credits.

When a body of a Native American girl is discovered in the rocky wilderness of Wind River, Wildlife agent Corey Lambert (Jeremy Renner) seeks help. This arrives in the form of novice FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen). Unprepared and shocked by the harsh wintry conditions of the wilds, Jane’s task in solving the mystery becomes harder. Using Corey as her tracker, Jane and her new companion swiftly face the realities of their environment and the savagery of nature’s elemental fury.

Although the basic plot is predictable, ‘Wind River’ maximises its locations well. The desolate, snowy vistas play an almost sinister role hiding the horrors of what the duo discover. ‘Wind River’ isn’t a simple whodunit but a complex piece about breaking down barriers of grief and proving yourself in a different environment. Corey and Jane are both damaged people looking for a way to free themselves of personal burdens. Only by taking on the anguish of the victims’ family can they let go, which is an almost perverse form of therapy the film daringly explores.

Taylor Sheridan makes a solid directorial debut with a good cast of characters and strong story. He sets the scene well and creates a slowly percolating atmosphere of dread. Whilst the procedural routine of examining clues is formulaic, Sheridan goes deep into his characters to unearth issues of racism and redemption. Renner and Olsen turn in fine performances although their mumbling accents occasionally makes it difficult to hear what they’re saying. They are still good amongst a great cast who perfectly pitch their roles with a dose of cynical world-weariness.

‘Wind River’ uses its locales well. It builds on the screenplay’s drama and adds to the character’s feelings as they navigate its brutal terrain. Mystery enthusiasts should enjoy sifting through the clues along with the characters even if it’s advisable to wear something warm while watching it.

Rating out of 10: 7

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