“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.

 

 

 

 

“Sicario”

Real chemistry can be seen between Benicio del Toro and Emily Blunt in “Sicario” , a thriller/revenge morality tale. The CIA,the FBI and the Columbian and Mexican drug cartels make for grisly images,procedural tinkerings, and “big picture” overviews of anti-drug soldiering. Situational ethics move with the clouds ,and you have never heard a better score, composed by Johann Johannsson and  some tracks performed by the Bucharest Symphony. I really liked this film. It is as complicated and as hellish as any war, and as nerve shattering. The pace under the direction of Denis Villeneuve is perfection. There is little dialogue,yet Taylor Sheridan has written a tight story that forces us to understand evil and its ramifications. The film’s transitions are superb. ” Be Alert, be vigilant, be aware” becomes the viewers’ mantra as it does our protagonist Kate’s.

Kate is an FBI agent with tactical experience who volunteers for an interagency task force with a crafty CIA agent named Matt ( Josh Brolin). Accompanied with music deep, dark and bass, a black caravan of Tahoes enter Juarez, Mexico. We see dangling and dismembered bodies,hear helicopter blades beat dread and fear, and realize that eight dead bodies on the borderline “won’t even make the paper in El Paso”.

Kate learns that she is being used as a decoy to trap agents on the take. In the “Wild Pony” bar, Kate dances and drinks only to fight for her life as part of the team. The “team” creates chaos and balances the score. They find a major tunnel, but understand that nothing will be where it is today. The scenes of border madness are amazing. Bus loads of migrant workers are interrogated and transported.

As Kate longs for the objective of their mission, Alejandro (del Toro) speaks of the Mexican cartel leader Manuel Diaz as a killer of thousands either killed by his hand or his blessing. He explains to Kate that killing him would be like finding a vaccine. Kate realizes that the FBI is not even scratching the surface. Only chickens and mules cross the drug land without money changing hands.

Benicio del Toro does his best work to date. He is tender and extremely violent. If “Sicario” means “zealot” in Jerusalem and “hitman” in Mexico, Alejandro is both. His violence is horrendous and personal. The action keeps moving along with the boundaries and the bad men. The music is often dirge like. The storm brewing makes use of dark skies and thunder. Thermal cameras are used to cinematic advantage. Natural sun sets contrast with the unnatural, like wives and children being shot or thrown into vats of acid. When Del Toro tells Blunt that she is “not a wolves’ wolf and this is a land of wolves”,we understand.

The final shot of children playing soccer amidst the crack of gunfire leaves its mark,too. Yet,prepare to see gray in all its variations while you are at the edge of your seat throughout this amazing film.