“Wind River”

Inspired by actual events, “Wind River” is riveting. The action is fast and surprising. The character connections are made early, and the message of loss and life’s cheapness hang heavy in the Wyoming chill.

This is is more than a revenge film. Director Taylor Sheridan uses a poem written and recited by one of the murder victims to give a lesson on controlling grief. He uses the film to highlight a horrendous flaw in our system of equal justice for all: no statistics are reported for missing Native American women in this country. This is not a preachy film. Morality here is deeply flawed; and, Sheridan keeps the realism of the story’s events believable and our hero understandable. Like Sheridan’s earlier films, ” Sicario” ( reviewed glowingly Oct.4th, 2015 ) and “Hell or High Water” ( reviewed August 19th, 2016 ), all Sheridan’s work whether writing, directing or both is ruminative and suspencefully chilling.

One  of the ways this is done in “Wind River” is through the characters of Cory Lambert (  Jeremy Renner ) and the seasoned law enforcement officer Ben ( Graham Greene). The veteran fish and wildlife manager and the sixtyish law enforcement chief do their jobs with practicality and know-how.

Gil Birmingham is wonderful as the Native American friend, who has lost his daughter to homicide, too. Elizabeth Olsen as rookie FBI operative Jane Banner is professional, willing to learn, smart , passionate, and thank you, screen writers, does not have a sexual relationship with our wildlife officer. He sees her as a daughter-figure and this adds to the intensity of his loss. The poetic lines: ” Taking solace in the perfection of knowing you and guarding every memory”,  herald the film’s tone.

Cory’s (Renner’s) ex- wife Wilma and his eight-year-old son, Casey, and his grandpa add a layer of cultural awareness in the respect for nature and familiar ties. I loved the line when Casey successfully took his horse through his paces:” That was Arapaho not cowboy.” , his father tells him with a twinkle in his eye.

The cinematography with its blue-white snowy terrain, green-black pines and prayful birches harken blizzards that come in cold waves. We understand twenty-below at night will burst lungs, and give stage four frostbite. Wyoming is stone cold. Film-goers will feel it. As Jane learns there are six officers for a territory as large as Rhode Island. ” Ben recites: “This is the land of ~ you are on your own.”

Sex, drugs, and violence are on screen, as are sled mobiles going eighty-miles-an-hour around trees. When the trees are too thick for snow mobiles, our trackers snow shoe through human carrion picked clean.

Fast camera spins are thrilling. Ben Richardson’s cinematography stellar. Silence and snow named as the two things not taken away from Wyoming’s Native People.

 

 

 

 

“Arrival”

What would it be like to have no beginning, middle, or end? What language might support a non-linear way of relating to the world?  Would living without a goal be ecstatically supported? Would grief be eradicated, or at least made easier to bear?

Philosophically, these ideas are just brushed once across the canvas of Director Denis  Villeneuve’s sci-film “Arrival”. What is done is that we are toyed  with flash-forwards instead of flashbacks. It is tricky, inventive and confusing. We hear our protagonist say, “Memory is a strange thing. We Are bound by time and its order.” Then we see hazy dream-like images: a baby, a small girl. We hear the phrase, ” Come back to me.” The viewer is set up to think we are in a flashback: that Prof. Banks has lost her daughter to illness is implied. We again hear a voice over: “I’m not sure I believe in beginnings and endings, or in moments that design your life.”

Amy Adams is perfect as Dr. Louise Banks. Her facial structure easily bends to curiosity, apprehension, and awe. Unlike Adam’s role in ” Nocturnal Animals”, we can see her thinking. She is a linguist of the highest calibre. Her inductive reasoning skills are fun to watch; and,  her controlled emotional responses to both her daughter’s illness, her divorce, and her mother’s telephone calls are universally relatable. Picking her battles wisely, she can hold her own politically and in the classroom.

We were told that Louise’s first husband was a scientist. We think  she lost a daughter, Hannah. When physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) falls in love with Louise’s bravery, brains, and compassion, we think she has a chance to start over. Then, we come to understand that Hannah will be their child.

The script written by Eric Hesserer is based on one of Chinese-American sci-fi writer Ted Chiang’s 1998 short stories. The extraterrestials are tentacled octopi. They use inkblot images to converse. They arrive in huge, spherical,  gray eggs, composition unknown. Confusion  over translations  “offer tool” or “use weapon” causes much of the world tension. A renown linguist is needed to ask why they have come. Besides, “language is the first weapon drawn in  a conflict.”

“Arrival” ‘s first forty minutes are well-paced and engrossing: clouds whip and cellos sound. The mid-section lags and  feels repetitive. The script does not lead us anywhere but to the maxim that the world needs to work together in the interest of humanity. The aliens have delivered twelve puzzle pieces to countries around the globe: China, Somalia, Russia and Pakistan are singled out for their contributions and world view. The United States and Russia are diplomatically drawn, too.

Besides the superb acting of an oft  pony-tailed Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker add something special to the cast. Renner,  a former make-up artist and singer, now actor and producer, starred in “The Hurt Locker”. Here he both charms, is charmed and vomits on camera. Whitaker, stellar in “The Crying Game” and “The Last King of Scotland”, knows how to mobilize his team.

Enjoy all the circular logograms, the non-linear typography,and the way another civilization prepares  for the next 3,000 years by gifting its language.