Spider On The Snow
Stars: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene, Jon Bernthal, Kelsey Chow, Hugh Dillon, Gil Birmingham, Martin Sensmeier and Tantoo Cardinal
Director/Scriptwriter: Taylor Sheridan
Composers: Nick Cave and Warren Ellis
Cinematographer: Ben Richardson
Rating: R for violence, sexual and themed material
Running Length: 111 Minutes
As in director/scriptwriter Taylor Sheridan’s film, “Sicario,” the first few seconds of the film set the mood for the rest of the story. You hear the wind, and then the story begins to unfold. The wind takes you from place to place. In “Wind River,” (Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming), the wind is combined with the labored breathing of a girl running from something. That something is the plot of the story. With rather sparse dialogue, beautiful photography and a soundtrack by Nick Cave (“Mars” from the National Geographic Channel), you will sit on the edge of your seat waiting...
The story unfolds from the death of a young girl in a frozen wilderness. Her body is found by U. S. Game and Wildlife agent Lambert (Jeremy Renner), who is stalking wolves and a crack shot. In the woods, there are many predators of various sizes, from a spider on the snow to wolves, mountain lions and even, two-legged ones Since the body is on Federal land, an FBI agent is called in. Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), clearly out of her weather element, coming in from Las Vegas and having to borrow a snowsuit, boots and gloves. Jane is savvy enough to realize she needs help here, and asks Lambert to be her hunter. They are looking for a two-legged killer. As the story unfolds with the use of flashbacks, we learn there have been other dead girls found in the snow, the Tribal Police have only a few men to cover land the size of Delaware, people have lost hope in change, teens look at prison as a rite-of-passage, and having a woman in command is not a good thing. People who live in this area also have shared secrets, which gradually come to the surface. Set against a majestic landscape that still has mountain lions and wolves, one must walk a fine line between showing too much authority and just enough understanding. Jane learns fast and shows she is handy with a gun. Jane also begins to see the backgrounds of some of the people she is now working with. Rough lives...rough country, and the clock is ticking.
Taylor Sheridan writes with sparseness of dialogue. No need to go into several minutes of explanation when one can see poverty, vastness of territory and sadness. It doesn't take long for Elizabeth Olsen’s character, Jane, to catch on to the fact that she is out of her depth here, but she keeps going on. It is the same with Jeremy Renner’s character, Lambert, who is in his depth here, but doesn't have the science to answer his questions until Jane arrives. Autopsies tell many things, and what Lambert wants to know, Jane can tell him. They make an unlikely team. Olsen, with her steady blue eyes has a toughness that surprises those around her. Fear isn't an option. Renner, with the gaze of a tracker---always looking for clues---is silently adding the facts in his mind. You can see the calculations on his face. Graham Greene, as the head of the Tribal Police doesn't have enough men to do much of anything, but tries his best. Desperation is part of his job description. One actor, Hugh Dillon, is part of a shoot-out, and is recognizable by his trademark lack of hair. Dillon was one of the stars of the TV series “Flashpoint.” In fact, it isn't easy to recognize actors because of the snow suits they are wearing. Know their colors. Jane is in blue, Lambert in white, and the rest in black.
“Wind River” is one of the best films of the year so far. Not only is the script well written, but so is the use of scenery (a director Taylor Sheridan trademark) as part of the acting crew, and the quiet use of music, provided by composer Nick Cave. One of the film characters wrote a poem and if you listen carefully, you can hear the poem recited quietly against the background of music. A nice touch.
As with “Sicario,” I sat back and let the sound of wind, and the story unfold in front of me. The northern climate is a familiar one, as opposed to the desert of “Sicario.” The hunt for predators continues with the choices one makes to survive or to hunt prey. The plight of many Native American reservations is the same. Too few police, to much land to check out and too much red tape. Sometimes, it is the gut feeling that gets you the answers you need. Just like the spider on the snow, be obvious when you have to, be secretive when you must.
Copyright 2017 Marie Asner