Taglines: Danger comes with the territory.
Jeremy Renner is a hunter for the Fish & Game commission in a remote area near Lander, WY. His main job is to control wildlife encroachment into populated areas. He’s called on by the tribal chief from the local reservation, to which he has family ties, to help solve the death of the daughter of one of his Native American friends.
We learn that his own 16 year old daughter was raped and left to die in the wilderness a few years before. That case was never solved. He blames himself because he and his wife were gone for a weekend get-a-way when she disappeared from an unchaperoned party at his house. The FBI sends only one agent to investigate, so he agrees to help her and the chief find out who caused the death of the girl.
Wind River is a 2017 neo-Western murder mystery film written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. The film stars Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen as a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service tracker and an FBI agent, respectively, who try to solve a murder on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming. Gil Birmingham, Jon Bernthal and Graham Greene also star. According to Sheridan, the opening “inspired by true events” card was a reference to the “thousands of actual stories just like it” involving sexual assault of women on reservations, his primary motivation for writing the film.
Wind River grossed $33.8 million in the United States and Canada and $6.6 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $40.4 million, against a production budget of $11 million. In the film’s limited opening weekend, it made $161,558 from four theaters (a per-location average of $40,390, one of the best of 2017), finishing 29th at the box office. In its second week the film expanded to 45 theaters and grossed $622,567. The film expanded to 694 theaters on August 18 and grossed $3 million, finishing 10th at the box office.
The following week the film was added to an additional 1,401 theaters (for a total of 2,095) and made $4.6 million (an increase of 54.6%), managing to finish 4th at the box office. The film was added to yet another 507 theaters and made $5.7 million the following weekend, and an estimated $7.2 million over the four-day Labor Day weekend, finishing in the 2nd spot at the U.S. box office consistently for the next 13 days. It was the 6th-highest grossing indie film of 2017.
About the Story
During a winter season in Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent Cory Lambert discovers the frozen body of 18-year-old Natalie Hanson, without shoes or proper winter attire, and with a blood-stained groin. Rookie FBI special agent Jane Banner arrives to determine whether a homicide has been committed.
The next day, Jane learns from Natalie’s father that his daughter was dating a new boyfriend, but he does not know the man’s name or whereabouts. The autopsy returns findings of blunt trauma and sexual violence, and confirms Cory’s deduction that the girl had died from exposure, specifically pulmonary hemorrhage caused by rapid inhalation of sub-zero air. However, the medical examiner is unable to report that the victim’s death was a homicide, therefore preventing Jane from calling in an additional FBI investigative unit.
Cory learns that Natalie’s boyfriend is named Matt and works security at a nearby oil drilling site. The next day another body is discovered—this time male—nude and heavily ravaged by scavenging wildlife. Jane is told that the male body has been identified as Matt Rayburn, a security guard from the drilling rig. Cory then tells Jane about the death of his daughter three years before, whose body was discovered in the snow, following a party at his house while he and his wife had been out of town.
Jane, accompanied by the Tribal Police Chief, Ben, and additional officers, visit the drill site where they meet several of the security guards, who tell her they haven’t seen Matt since he stormed off a few days ago following an argument with Natalie. When Jane tells the guards that she’s investigating Matt’s disappearance, they reveal their knowledge of the discovery of Natalie’s body, claiming they had learned of it by monitoring law enforcement radio channels. She points out that Natalie’s name was never mentioned over the radio. One of the visiting officers notices that the security guards have started to surround Jane and her team. The confrontation quickly escalates into an armed standoff as they argue over who has jurisdiction, which Jane finally defuses by asserting federal authority over the others. Jane insists that she wants to see where Matt has been bunking, and they resume their approach to the trailer.
A flashback then shows Natalie cuddling with Matt in his trailer. Unexpectedly, his security colleagues barge into the trailer after a night of hard drinking. Pete, a particularly vulgar crew member, taunts them and tries to sexually assault Natalie, which provokes Matt to violence. The guards retaliate by beating Matt down while Pete rapes Natalie. When Matt attempts to fight back, the group beats him to death, giving Natalie the opportunity to escape.
Back in present time, Cory has retraced the tracks up to Matt’s corpse and finds that it leads directly into the drilling camp just as Jane’s group of officers approach the drill crew’s sleeping quarters. Cory warns Ben by radio but Jane is hit by a shotgun blast fired through the door by Pete before she can get out of the way.
A firefight ensues, in which Ben and the other officers are killed. As the surviving security guards prepare to execute Jane to cover up any loose ends, Cory kills all the remaining guards except for Pete, who flees on foot. Cory catches Pete and brings him to the top of a mountain. After forcing a confession from Pete, Cory offers him the same chance Natalie had, a barefoot escape toward a distant road in clothes not suitable for winter. Pete runs for his life but stumbles through the snow for only a few dozen yards before his lungs give out and he dies from the same pulmonary hemorrhage that killed Natalie.
Wind River (2017)
Directed by: Taylor Sheridan
Starring: Kelsey Asbille, Jeremy Renner, Julia Jones, Teo Briones, Graham Greene, Elizabeth Olsen, Tantoo Cardinal, Althea Sam, Tokala Black Elk, Martin Sensmeier, Tyler Laracca, Shayne J. Cullen
Screenplay by: Taylor Sheridan
Production Design by: Neil Spisak
Cinematography by: Ben Richardson
Film Editing by: Gary Roach
Costume Design by: Kari Perkins
Set Decoration by: Cynthia A. Neibaur
Art Direction by: Lauren Slatten
Music by: Nick Cave, Warren Ellis
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language.
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Release Date: August 4, 2017