Movie Review: Wind River (2017)

The frontier. A wild, unpredictable, and untameable part of our world. As beautiful as it is dangerous. Something that Taylor Sheridan seemingly likes to explore in his scripts.

Ladies and gentlemen… “Wind River”.

Set in the cold mountains and forests of Wyoming, we follow an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen) as she has to investigate the death of a young woman with the help of a local tracker (Jeremy Renner). So now we have our murder mystery that isn’t just a murder mystery. Yes, the investigation is a big focus of the movie, but the plot is also largely about the exploration of this place and the people who live there. Like with the two previous movies written by Taylor Sheridan (“Sicario”, “Hell or High Water”), it sets up one basic plot, and then gives it a few extra layers to explore certain themes. So what we get here is a deep, suspenseful, emotional, haunting, and just overall intriguing story.

The characters in this are all layered, interesting, and feel quite real. Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, the tracker tasked with helping out in this investigation. He’s a skilled hunter with a tragic past that gets explored in a very interesting way through the movie. And Renner is fantastic in the role, playing the character with a very understated sadness and intensity, this is the best performance I’ve seen from him. Elizabeth Olsen plays FBI agent Jane Banner. She’s a bit of a fish out of water in this, as she’s not used to the cold, unforgiving frontier. This doesn’t make her useless, as she shows herself as quite capable through the movie. She’s tough, but she also does have a more vulnerable side, which gives her some layers (which is important to have out in the cold). And Olsen is really good in the role. Next we have Gil Birmingham as the father of the dead girl. While we don’t get too many details on him as a character, seeing him in pain and trying to cope with his daughter’s death is utterly heartbreaking and makes him an interesting enough character. And Birmingham is great in the role. Then we get some supporting performances from Graham Greene, Julia Jones, Martin Sensmeier, Hugh Dillon, Eric Lange, and more, all doing very well in their respective roles.

The score for the movie was composed by Nick Cave & Warren Ellis, and if you’ve read any other reviews of mine where they’ve been the listed composers, you should suspect that I loved their score for this. It’s eerie, dark, emotional, and haunting, perfectly capturing the feel of the area, while also working very well for the murder mystery plot of the movie. I am slightly biased towards their music, but I do genuinely think their compositions for this movie are fantastic.

As I’ve not so subtly alluded to, this movie was written and directed by Taylor Sheridan. I already liked the other movies he’s written, so I was curious to see how he’d do at directing. And I have to say that I am quite impressed. His direction is manages to be sweeping and ambitious, while still tight and intimate with the characters/situations. He also manages to build a lot of suspense throughout, especially during the final act where that tension escalates to a whole new level. But none of it ever feels Hollywood-ized, which feels quite fresh in our modern world. And the cinematography by Ben Richardson is pretty great.

This movie has been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 87% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 73/100. And on imdb.com it has a score of 7,8/10.

“Wind River” is a fantastic little drama, and another great showcase for Taylor Sheridan’s writing. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, fantastic music, and great directing/cinematography. Time for my final score. *Ahem*. My final score for “Wind River” is a 9,88/10. So it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Wind River” is now completed.

We’re going back to the wild frontier…

Series Review: Godless (2017)

A Netflix western miniseries? Yeah, I didn’t need any convincing to watch this. So here we go.

Ladies and gents… “Godless”.

Roy Goode (Jack O’Connell) used to be part of an infamous gang up until he betrayed them. And the gang’s leader, Frank (Jeff Daniels), wants Roy dead for that. So now Roy is hiding out in a town called La Belle, a town run entirely by women. So now we have our western plot. And with this plot they embrace pretty much every western cliché known to man… but they also put some interesting new perspectives on them to make them feel a bit more fresh. There’s a lot of good drama here that I found myself quite invested in while they still gave me some of the classic western plot points. If I had to make a comparison in plot style I’d say that this is part “The Beguiled” and part “Red Dead Redemption”. There’s the women-majority cast of the first, and the violent gang betrayal stuff of the latter. And I think it makes for an interesting mix in this show. Hell, I’d say that it’s great.

The characters here are given a good amount of time to develop and I think they’re interesting. Jack O’Connell plays Roy Goode, the former outlaw hiding out in La Belle. He has the kill-skills from his gang-days, but you can tell that he’s also a good guy who prefers to live quietly and help out. He’s a tragic character and O’Connell is great in the role. Michelle Dockery plays Alice Fletcher, the woman who is responsible for helping/hiding Goode. She’s tough, but she also shows a more vulnerable side during the show, giving her a good amount of layers. And Dockery is great in the role. Then we have Merritt Wever as Mary Agnes, one of the many women of Le Belle. She’s tough as hell, but you can tell that she’s also a sad and damaged character. And Wever is great in the role. Then we have Scott McNairy as Bill McNue, the Sheriff of La Belle and one of very few men there. He’s aging, but he’s still determined to get the job done. And McNairy is great in the role. Then we have Jeff Daniels as Frank Griffin, the outlaw in charge that Roy Goode betrayed. What I like about him is that he isn’t just a ruthless asshole kind of outlaw, but he’s given a lot of interesting sides to him. He’s damaged, he’s charismatic, he has a kind heart, but he is also an intimidating outlaw that will shoot you dead if you cross him. And Daniels is absolutely great in the role. The final one I want to go slightly more in-depth with is Whitey Winn, played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster. He’s a slightly over-confident young deputy. But they don’t go the route of making his over-confidence turning him into an unlikable idiot (which so many shows/movies do), but they show that it’s a flaw of his. But generally he is a good guy that is worth liking. And Brodie-Sangster is great in the role. And then you can expect some great performances from people like Kim Coates, Samuel Marty, Tantoo Cardinal, Sam Waterston, Christiane Seidel, Erik LaRay Harvey, Jessica Sula, and many more. Seriously, this is an incredibly well acted series.

The score for the show was composed by Carlos Rafael Rivera and it was pretty fucking great. Trumpets, strings, piano, other types of brass… seriously, this is a full-on western score emulating a lot of classic ones and it makes me so happy. And overall it is just fantastic, perfectly fitting the show and often elevating scenes throughout the show.

This show was created by Scott Frank and Steven Soderbergh, with Frank having written and directed all of the episodes. And I think he did a fantastic job with that. His direction here is sweeping, but also tight and focused when it needs to. It has a good sense of flow and style to it, while also managing to create a good amount of tension to it whenever it needs to. And let’s talk about the shooty-bang-bangs (I know they’re called shootouts, but I prefer my phrase for them). They’re badass, fun, exciting, and quite violent. There’s even a decent amount of tension in them, making them even more interesting.

This show just came out but has already been quite well received. On Rotten Tomatoes it has an 89% positive rating and a “Fresh” certification. On Metacritic it has a score of 76/100. And on imdb.com it (as of writing this) has a score of 8,5/10.

“Godless” is another win for Netflix. It has a great plot, really good characters, great performances, great music, and great directing/action. Time for my final score. *Bang*. My final score for “Godless” is a 9,85/10. This of course means that it gets the “SEAL OF APPROVAL!”.

My review of “Godless” is now completed.

Part of me wants more. But part of me feels like it should stay a miniseries.