I first noticed Jeremy Renner when he starred in “The Hurt Locker,” which won the Oscar for Best Picture in 2008. Two years later, he caught my eye again in “The Town.” Then the Marvel people plucked him to play Hawkeye (one of The Avengers), but he continued to impress me in non-superhero roles in “The Bourne Legacy,” “American Hustle,” “Arrival,” and the underrated “Kill The Messenger.”
This summer, Renner stars in “Wind River,” a murder mystery on an Indian Reservation in Wyoming. As a tracker for the US Fish and Wildlife Service, Renner is the first to discover the body of a barefoot young woman frozen in the snow, far from anywhere. He reports his find to the reservation’s police chief (Graham Greene), who calls in the FBI, hoping to get a few experienced agents to look into the crime. Instead, he gets one rookie agent (played by Elizabeth Olsen, also part of the Marvel acting stable), who is as unfamiliar with Wyoming as she is with proper winter gear. Since he’s familiar with the reservation (his ex-wife and kids are Native Americans and live there), Olsen recruits Renner to help her figure out what happened.
As they unravel the mystery, Renner and Olsen have good professional chemistry and, fortunately, that’s where the movie leaves it, without forcing them into a love story. Greene is solid and stolid as ever — he’s been Hollywood’s go-to Indian for 4 decades in movies like “Dances With Wolves,” “Maverick,” and “The Green Mile.”
“Wind River” was written and directed by Taylor Sheridan, who did the screenplay for “Hell Or High Water” (which I liked despite Jeff Bridges’ mumbling) and “Sicario” (which I didn’t like despite his Oscar nomination). This time, he takes his time telling the story, showing us the vast frozen tundra of the reservation, developing the characters.
I won’t give away any details of the murder plot except to say it eventually takes an ugly turn, with a burst of violence towards the end that stops just short of being Tarantino-esque. Still, it rolls on to a mostly satisfactory finale with a message about how many young Native American women go missing each year and are never found.
I give “Wind River” a 7.5 out of 10.