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Wind River: Blu-ray + Digital HD Review

Wind River (2017) movie poster Wind River

Theatrical Release: August 4, 2017 / Running Time: 107 Minutes / Rating: R

Writer/Director: Taylor Sheridan

Cast: Jeremy Renner (Cory Lambert), Elizabeth Olsen (Jane Banner), Gil Birmingham (Martin Hanson), Kelsey Asbille (Natalie Hanson), Teo Briones (Casey Lambert), Tantoo Cardinal (Alice Crowheart), Matthew Del Negro (Dillon), Hugh Dillon (Curtis), Julia Jones (Wilma Lambert), James Jordan (Pete Mickens), Eric Lange (Dr. Whitehurst), Martin Sensmeier (Chip Hanson), Jon Bernthal (Matt), Graham Greene (Ben), Norman Lehnert (Dale), Tokala Clifford (Sam Littlefeather), Tyler Laracca (Frank Walker), Ian Bohen (Evan)

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Screenwriting is largely an anonymous career for those who do not also direct, but in the past two years,
Taylor Sheridan has emerged as an original storyteller to watch with his acclaimed screenplays for Sicario and Hell or High Water, the latter of which earned him a well-deserved Academy Award nomination. Now, Sheridan, previously a veteran television character actor probably not recognizable from recurring roles on "Sons of Anarchy" and "Veronica Mars", makes the perhaps inevitable leap to writer-director on Wind River, a film just as good as the 2016 Best Picture nominee he only wrote.

Wind River is not Sheridan's directorial debut; he did helm the no-budget 2011 horror film Vile. But obviously, this film is something different, the latest in his string of bold, flavorful thrillers released in the year's third quarter.

In "Wind River", Fish & Wildlife officer Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) helps an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) investigate a disappearance/homicide.

Based on true events, Wind opens with a poem and a young Native American woman passing out in the snow. We then meet Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner), a proficient hunter and Fish & Wildlife officer in Wyoming's icy Wind River Indian reservation.

As on Sheridan's strong previous screenplays, atmosphere is a major force here. The title locale is bigger than any other character, although Sheridan continues to display a knack for creating those. A vast region marked by subzero temperatures and never-melting snow, Wind River has just six police officers to patrol an area the size of Rhode Island. When Lambert finds the dead body of the young woman from the prologue, it reopens wounds from his past while also presenting a painful new mystery for him to solve.

Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), the FBI agent nearest the crime scene, arrives, unprepared for the frostbite-inducing weather. The locals, including cynical Indian police chief Ben (a good Graham Greene), view the young agent with skepticism. But they also recognize that she is their best hope for solving the young woman's puzzling death. She, meanwhile, decides that Cory, with his knowledge of the terrain and eye for detail, would be the perfect person to assist with the investigation.

Unaccustomed to the harsh subzero temperatures of the Wind River reservation, FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) carries out her work in hand-me-down ski suits, to some skepticism from the local police force.

Wind River proceeds as a procedural, but not at all a run of the mill one. Cory's past hurt is gradually made clear, as is his reason for being so invested into this particular case.
A visit to the victim's family (her father is played by a lushly bewigged Gil Birmingham) clues us in to the factors that make this investigation difficult. Youths, including the deceased's own brother, are mixed up with drugs as an escape from the otherwise dead and unforgiving landscape. And there is obvious resentment that this is what the people who first occupied this nation have been reduced to.

Sheridan manages to tastefully make Wind River a number of things that elevate it above and beyond simply a law enforcement murder mystery. The case functions as catharsis for Cody, his past traumas slowly coming to light. It also shines a light on a race that no number of casinos can grant peace and whose crime, as closing text indicates, is not sufficiently tracked or combatted. It's not easy to achieve these things while also compelling as a piece of entertainment, but Wind River makes it look effortless with its deliberate presentation, a tactfully timed reveal, and a kind of classic and fulfilling Western resolution. It's better than Sicario and right up there with Hell or High Water as a contemporary thriller that feels timeless. That this film is based in reality does not make a significant difference in Sheridan's storytelling, which is sound and driven by complex characters you enjoy getting to know.

Grossing nearly $34 million from a strategic rollout, Wind River was one of the biggest box office successes of the year in the indie market, even outperforming what CBS and Lionsgate did on Hell or High Water a year earlier, which in my theatrical review I had described as "the dream scenario." While the strong showing in theaters ought to have aided Wind River's award season prospects, it has the unfortunate status of being distributed by The Weinstein Company, a studio that has come unraveled this fall amidst scandalous reports of sexual assault and harrassment.

As both the studio's only successful and acclaimed release of 2017 and a film that deals with unreported crimes of a sexual nature, Wind River clearly stands to lose the most from the Weinstein scandal. In an admirable effort to combat that, Sheridan has gotten the film to drop all association with The Weinstein Company and in stunningly little time. The film's awards campaign is being handled by production company Acacia Entertainment with financing from the Tunica-Biloxi tribes. And the home video release, which was already slated to be distributed by Lionsgate, sheds all mention of Weinstein both in the packaging and on the film itself. The curious thing is that the disc was authored in this way with file dates of August 28, 2017, suggesting the dissociation was planned well before the scandalous Weinstein news broke in early October. Such steps may not be enough to push Wind River over films that are only opening now and need to ride only a couple of months of buzz to all the nominations, but they give it a chance that it otherwise wouldn't have.

Wind River: Blu-ray + Digital HD combo pack cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Blu-ray Disc Details

2.39:1 Widescreen
5.1 DTS-HD MA (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish
Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Release Date: November 14, 2017
Suggested Retail Price: $34.99
Single-sided, dual-layered discs (BD-25)
Blue Eco-Friendly Keepcase in Cardboard Slipcover
Also available as DVD + Digital ($29.95 SRP) and on Instant Video

VIDEO and AUDIO

Lionsgate's Blu-ray preserves the film's cold, snowy visuals with the sharpness and detail you expect of a 2017 film. The 5.1 DTS-HD master audio suitably engulfs you in wintry atmosphere and haunting score.

Jane (Elizabeth Olsen) gets more attitude than expected when checking into her Wind River hotel in this deleted scene. A tiny bit of behind-the-scenes footage in the short featurettes shows the snowy shoot that was "Wind River."

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Wind River doesn't get a ton of bonus features.
First up, there are two short deleted scenes (3:11), one of Cody talking with some colleagues after bringing in wolves and the more interesting other showing Jane check into a motel.

The remaining extras form a section called Behind the Scenes Video Gallery. They are short featurettes centered on Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, and writer-director Taylor Sheridan, unfolding with a standard mix of talking head interviews, film clips, and footage from the location production. They run 9 minutes and 54 seconds altogether with a "Play All" option. "The Weinstein Company" does feature in the closing copyright text.

The disc opens with a trailer for The Hero. It isn't accessible by menu and no trailers for Wind River are included.

The menu loops clips from the film along while Nick Cave and Warren Ellis' "Three Seasons in Wyoming" plays.

A Digital HD insert accompanies the plain silver disc inside the slipcovered, eco-friendly keepcase.

Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is uniquely equipped to lend comfort to Martin Hanson (Gil Birmingham), the father of the Native American woman whose murder is being investigated.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

With 2017 winding down, Wind River unquestionably remains one of the year's very best films. The strong characters and atmosphere of Taylor Sheridan's previous films again feature with him at the helm. It is unfortunate that it seems unlikely to draw the recognition it deserves, because of who distributed it theatrically.

Lionsgate's Blu-ray is disspiritingly light on extras, but the film itself easily warrants a recommendation and its feature presentation is commendable.

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Related Reviews:
Written by Taylor Sheridan: Hell or High Water Sicario
New to Disc: Baby Driver War for the Planet of the Apes Wonder Woman Inconceivable
Jeremy Renner: Arrival The Immigrant American Hustle Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Captain America: Civil War
Elizabeth Olsen: Avengers: Age of Ultron Very Good Girls Godzilla Kill Your Darlings
Fargo Winter's Bone Insomnia The Hateful Eight Manchester by the Sea

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Reviewed November 14, 2017.



Text copyright 2017 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 2017 Acacia Entertainment, Synergics Films, The Fyzz Facility, Riverstone Pictures, Voltage Pictures,
Wild Bunch, Star Thrower Entertainment, Tunica-Biloxi Tribe of Louisiana, Savvy Media Holdings, Thunder Road, Film 44, and Lionsgate.
Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.