In 2017 it’s unfortunate that the ostensible chief concern of 'Wind River' (namely the ongoing, and often ignored, abuse of Native American women) has been realized in the form of an overtly masculine story of a white man in crisis. It’s doubly unfortunate that, having decided that this is the story he wants to tell, writer/director Taylor Sheridan continually undercuts himself with screeds of on-the-nose dialogue, one major character that belongs in a completely different movie, and a bizarrely-located, extended flashback scene that slices through the middle of the best suspense set-piece in the film, leeching away the tension to redundantly drum up the audience’s blood-lust against the villains. Frustrating is the only word to describe it.
Still, despite these issues, 'Wind River' remains fairly compelling throughout, with an evocative sense of place and a handful of excellent performances, chiefly from Gil Birmingham as a grieving father. Birmingham almost single-handedly gives the final scene an emotional weight that, for a handful of precious moments, lifts the film to the level of profundity that it has clearly been striving for throughout. Despite the missteps he makes throughout, Sheridan at least has the good sense to save his best material till last.
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