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Home / Career / Film Productions
Wind River
060.jpg Original Release: August 4, 2017
Genre: Crime | Drama | Mystery
Running time: 107 minutes
Directed by: Taylor Sheridan
Written by: Taylor Sheridan
Produced by: Matthew George, Basil Iwanyk
Peter Berg, Wayne L. Rogers, Elizabeth A. Bell
Distributed by: The Weinstein Company
Budget: $11 million
Box Office
: $45 million

East of Boulder Flats, deep into the vast and unforgiving white territory of the Wind River Indian Reservation, the seasoned game tracker, Cory Lambert, discovers the frozen body of the young Native American, Natalie. As this is a federal crime, the F.B.I. dispatches the inexperienced but courageous agent Jane Banner to lead the investigation, however, the unprepared outsider will soon team up with Cory to unravel the mystery of Natalie’s murder. Before long, Cory will inevitably have to face his own past, while at the same time, both he and Jane are thirsting to see justice done. In the end, will this be a fruitful alliance?

Cast & Characters

Jeremy Renner (Cory Lambert), Elizabeth Olsen (Jane Banner), Graham Greene (Ben Shoyo), Kelsey Chow (Natalie Hanson), Gil Birmingham (Martin Hanson), Julia Jones (Wilma Lambert), Martin Sensmeier (Chip Hanson), Althea Sam (Annie Hanson), Teo Briones (Casey Lambert), Apesanahkwat (Dan Crowheart), Tantoo Cardinal (Alice Crowheart), Jon Bernthal (Matt Rayburn), James Jordan (Pete Mickens), Hugh Dillon (Curtis), Matthew Del Negro (Dillon), Austin Grant (Carl), Ian Bohen (Evan), Eric Lange (Dr. Randy Whitehurst), Tyler Laracca (Frank Walker), Gerald Tokala Clifford (Sam Littlefeather).

Production Photos

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Production Notes

According to Sheridan, he was inspired to write this film because he learned about the “thousands of actual stories just like it”: referring to the high number of Indigenous women who are victims of sexual assault and/or murder. He wrote and directed the movie to make more people aware of this problem.

The film is the third installment of Taylor Sheridan’s trilogy of “the modern-day American frontier”, the first being Sicario in 2015, and Hell or High Water the next year. Principal photography on the film began on March 12, 2016 in Utah and lasted until April 25, 2016.

Trivia

  • During the course of the shoot, writer-director Taylor Sheridan was visited on set by some Shoshone tribal leaders who astonished him with the revelation that, at that very time, there were 12 unsolved murders of young women on a reservation of about 6,000 people. Due to a 1978 landmark government ruling (Oliphant v. Suquamish), the Supreme Court stripped tribes of the right to arrest and prosecute non-natives who commit crimes on native land. If neither victim nor perpetrator are native, a county or state officer must make the arrest. If the perpetrator is non-native and the victim an enrolled member, only a federally-certified agent has that right. If the opposite is true, a tribal officer can make the arrest, but the case must still go to federal court. This quagmire creates a jurisdictional nightmare by choking up the legal process on reservations to such a degree, many criminals go unpunished indefinitely for serious crimes.
  • The film received a lengthy 8 minutes standing ovation at the end of its premiere in the Un Certain Regard competition of the Cannes film festival.
  • Wind River Indian Reservation is the seventh-largest Indian reservation in the U.S.
  • Elizabeth Olsen experienced snow blindness while shooting the film.
  • After the news of Harvey Weinstein’s history of sexual assaults and harassment fully broke in late 2017, Taylor Sheridan called The Weinstein Company’s then-interim Chairman David Glassner and gave them an ultimatum: the company would remove its logo and any production credits from the film for all post-theatrical airings, and agree to turn down any future compensation from its release, and in return there would be no other dealings. Glassner immediately agreed to Sheridan’s demands.

Release & Reception

The Weinstein Company acquired the distribution rights on May 13, 2016, during the 2016 Cannes Film Festival. In January 2017, it was announced that the company would no longer distribute the film, but the distribution deal was later finalized. It had a limited release on August 4, 2017, before going wide on August 18.

In October 2017, following reporting on the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse scandal, Lionsgate announced that it would distribute the film on home media and streaming services. The Weinstein Company (TWC) name and logo were omitted from the credits, trailer, and packaging. As a result, The Weinstein Company finally stopped distributing the film. Sheridan had required that TWC be deleted from the materials, and demanded that all money Weinstein would have made on this work be donated to charity.

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 88% based on 241 reviews, with an average rating of 7.69/10. The website’s critical consensus reads, “Wind River lures viewers into a character-driven mystery with smart writing, a strong cast, and a skillfully rendered setting that delivers the bitter chill promised by its title.” On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 73 out of 100, based on 44 critics, indicating “generally favorable reviews”. Audiences polled by PostTrak gave the film a 90% overall positive score and a 70% “definite recommend”.

Owen Gleiberman of Variety described Wind River as a “humanistic crime drama, though this one has more skill than excitement”. Chris Plante of The Verge described it as “a thrilling, violent finale to the Hell or High Water and Sicario trilogy”, and as “Coen brothers noir meets the case of the week.”

Writing for Rolling Stone, Peter Travers praised Sheridan’s direction and the cast, giving the film 3/4 stars. He wrote: “[It’s] the set-up for what could have been a conventional whodunit – thankfully, Sheridan is allergic to all things conventional. To him, the action is character, and he’s lucked out by finding actors who not only understand his approach but thrive on it.” David Ehrlich of IndieWire gave the film a B, writing: “[If] Wind River shares Sheridan’s self-evident weaknesses, it also makes the most of his signature strengths. […] Wind River may not blow you away, but this bitter, visceral, and almost paradoxically intense thriller knows what it takes to survive.”

In a High Country News article titled “Why do white writers keep making films about Indian Country?”, Native commentator Jason Asenap praises the film as “a thinking-person’s thriller” full of complex characters, and describes the film’s focus on missing Native American women as “admirable.” He criticizes the film for perpetuating the “dying Indians” motif:

“at least in Hollywood, the Indians die. To this day, the Indians die, and not just physically, but culturally. Simpson and Sheridan are invested in making us see how America has screwed Native people, but to the point of rubbing it in our faces. Is it so terrible to live in one’s own homeland? It may be hard to get out, but it certainly feels condescending for a non-Native to write as much.”

The filmmakers were criticized for casting non-Native actors in some of the Native American roles.

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