Jeff Arnold’s West

The blog of a Western fan, for other Western fans

Wind River (Lionsgate, 2017)


Winter Wyoming


We’ve reviewed some of Taylor Sheridan’s Western or semi-Western films on this blog, the likes of 1883 and 1923. Wind River in 2017, which he wrote and directed, was perhaps at the outer edges of the Western genre, more of a police procedural really, but it is set in winter Wyoming, has an Arapaho hero in a Stetson who’s a good shot and eventually has a shoot-out with the bad guys, and the picture generally has some decent Western credentials. So I watched it.


Taylor wrote and directed


Jeremy Renner (Wood Hite in The Assassination of Jesse James… and to be Doc Holliday in the forthcoming Doc) is a military sniper-like hunter Cory Lambert, who shoots predators, i.e. animals which have the temerity to hunt prey to eat, such as introduced sheep. He has a tragic past, as is gradually revealed. When Natalie, a local teenager he knew (Kelsey Asbille Chow, Monica Dutton in Sheridan’s Yellowstone) is found dead in the snow, and, it will turn out, raped, he teams up with FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to solve the crime. He is wise in the ways of the West and she is from Las Vegas and a Western neophyte (she hasn’t even brought winter wear with her) so it’s a classic pairing. Luckily there’s no romance, which I feared obligatory, and they work well, and laconically together.



Strong characters, I thought, were Gil Birmingham as the murdered Natalie’s father Martin, at first stoical then crumbling, and Graham Greene as the dry and wry tribal police chief who’s seen it all before yet still cares.


Birmingham as foundering father


Apesanahkwat and Graham Greene excellent – though I kinda wish the American Indians had bigger roles


Probably the star of the show is the landscape, shot on the Wind River Reservation and in Wyoming and Utah by Taylor pard Ben Richardson (Yellowstone, 1883, 1923). You can feel the cold.


The villains are pretty loathsome and get their just deserts (lead in most cases, the Wyoming winter in one). It’s quite Western in that way.


I didn’t think this movie would set the prairies on fire but it’s good enough, and well enough acted, produced and directed, to warrant a look. It’s on Netflix, or was it Prime, at the mo, here in France anyway.





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11 Responses

  1. Pretty good for a first film direction after Sheridan’s good scripts for Sicario and Hell or High Water, the later being an other (better in my opinion) modern western with Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine (who was Sheridan’s first choice for Wind River replaced by Renner), Ben Foster and half Comanche Gil Birmingham that I have already mentioned when chatting about modern westerns. O guess Barry will say it’s an orher commie one…
    Wind River reminds me in many ways, Longmire the pretty good TV serie created from Craig Johnson’s novels. Sheridan has a true sense of nature and knows how to show it on screen, yes you can feel the cold !
    He was awarded the Prix de la mise en scène at the Un certain regard selection of the Cannes festival 2017.
    Maybe aren’t you aware The sequel Wind River: The Next Chapter has just been shot in Alberta early 2023 with Martin Sensmeier and Gil Birmingham reprising their roles with the addition of both excellent Jason Clarke and Scott Eastwood (one of the sons of). Its director is Kari Skogland (a Canadian filmmaker lady with a lot of experience in action films, especially in TV such as Longmire, Boardwalk Empire, Vikings etc. But also feature films such as 1998 Nothing Too Good for a Cowboy, a very attractive title isn’t!? But I never found it yet…)
    Hoping the sequel will be as good as the first one…
    About Birmingham, Jeff, have you heard anything about Into the West, a 6 episodes miniserie produced in 2005 by Steven Spielberg that includes Birmingham among many others very good actors such as Eric Schweig, Wes Studi, Graham Greene, Beau Bridges, Tom Berenger, Josh Brolin, Gary Busey, Keri Russell. It is the mingled story of a native and a white family from the 1820s to the 90s ?
    I missed it when shown on Arte in France in 2021 unfortunately.

    1. I’ll look forward to the sequel.
      I too missed INTO THE WEST on Arte. I’ll catch it at some point.
      I am quite a fan of the Longmire books and the TV show was OK, I thought, though maye not quite as good as the books.

  2. As we watched Wind River the other night my lovely bride kept making comments along the “why are they/did they do that?” and my answer was “because this is a Western.” Casting Elizabeth Olsen as the fish out of water Easterner worked much better than I thought it would but Renner’s performance as a prototypical quiet man with a tragic past was excellent. Really looking forward to Renner as Doc Holiday.

  3. Excellent review. I really like this movie and love when the bad guys ge their just desserts. Olson is excellent. Renner is Cooperish and fantastic. As modern Westerns go first rate.

      1. Yes, I really like how he handles himself. Especially, in the last scenes with the bad guys, then guy. The quiet last scene too. Excellent work.

  4. A good movie but the scene where the cops get weapons drawn on them by the security guards and do nothing about it rings hollow. As a retired law enforcement officer I can tell you no cop would put up with that and do nothing about it. Otherwise a great movie.

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