Best movie of 2017? Maybe. At least the second best in my opinion (see Wonder Woman review) and perhaps a bit of a surprise for me. I love catching an indie flick by chance and being blown away by it. A great crime drama is something of a masterpiece when done correctly. I can think of many over the years that have stayed with me because of the character driven, setting inspired, but real feeling stories and that's what drives home with Wind River. It is character driven, it is absolutely setting inspired and feels incredibly real. I saw Hell Or High Water and enjoyed it but it didn't have the same impact as Wind River. This film is disturbing, visceral, captivating and the characters are subtle but very easy to relate to. I haven't seen Sicario but I've heard good things. Wind River is slow burning but super powerful. It gives a back story that links the characters to the current situation and then builds a mystery and a climax. There are a few mis-steps in how the film unravels but I was still riveted by everything. A film like this relies on tension and atmosphere and the director puts you in the middle of both. It also easily builds back story so that you understand the characters without spending a lot of time dwelling on them.
The cast does such a great job because the chemistry between them is so strong. I'm never sure whether or not I like Jeremy Renner but over time he's growing on me in the Marvel Universe. But I was really glad to see him sinking his teeth into something more gritty and real here. Granted he still is playing the lone sulking brooding type of character that Hawkeye is but he does it well and he cares the film like a star should. Elizabeth Olsen also returns to full form as the FBI Agent who is solely unprepared for the case. Olsen and Renner are good together and I like that it's not a sexual/romantic relationship but strictly a partnership. Olsen's character is tough and strong and I like that a lot. Graham Greene has a great role and good chemistry with Renner too but his character's progression and eventual climax is poor at best. They use him very well as a supporting character and then completely waste him in the end. Hugh Dillon, Kelsey Asbille, Ian Bohen, and Jon Bernthal all have strong supporting roles that really bring the story together and put you in the middle of this community reeling from personal problems and crime.
This is definitely director Taylor Sheridan's best in my opinion. The style and direction is very good. It might even trump the cast's performance. If you look at the way the movie is filmed you can't help but be impressed. Considering the entire film is this bleak, white wasteland with not a lot to go on, he makes it come to life. Renner's employment as a hunter and knowing the wilderness and tracking predators. The close ups of certain character's faces and the wide-shots of the outdoors and what they're up against. The far shots as though you're often looking through a scope...these are things that would really catch a critic's eye. But regardless if you like a slow burning thriller, this one is great and it gets under your skin and stays with you which is why I think this is one of the best indie films of 2017 and I hope to see them pop up somewhere at the Oscars as unlikely as it is. 8.5/10