Why It’s a Good Time to Revisit Taylor Sheridan’s “Wind River”
Right now the disappearance and death of “vanlife” personality Gabby Petito at the presumed hands of her boyfriend is gripping the nation and world, and to such a permeating degree that it has caused sort of its own specific backlash as people wake up to the thousands of people that go missing, or who are the victims of unsolved murders every year that don’t happen to be pretty white girls from affluent backgrounds, especially native American women who go missing, or are murdered, or are otherwise exploited at an alarming clip in the United States.
Screenwriter and director Taylor Sheridan from Texas has been receiving tons of buzz lately, especially in the country music world since his television series Yellowstone on the Paramount Network features so many great independent country artists in its soundtrack, not to mention Sheridan is about to start a second prequel series to the show starring Tim McGraw and Faith Hill called 1883. The huge success of Yellowstone has helped put artists such as Colter Wall and Whiskey Myers on the national map.
Previously, Sheridan also was the screenwriter for the drug cartel film Sicario in 2015, which won numerous awards and was a box office smash, followed quickly by 2016’s Hell or High Water, which just like Yellowstone, featured a killer soundtrack that included Colter Wall, Scott H. Biram, Ray Wylie Hubbard, Townes Van Zandt, Waylon Jennings, and others. Hell or High Water was also nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Screenplay, and Best Film.
But the wild success Taylor Sheridan has enjoyed recently has somewhat overshadowed what was the third film in the screenwriter’s neo-Western trilogy about “the modern-day American frontier,” which also included Sicario and Hell or High Water. Called Wind River and released in 2017, it didn’t receive quite the critical acclaim of Hell or High Water, or have the commercial success of Sicario, but it is a vital contribution to the Taylor Sheridan canon nonetheless, and one worth revisiting in the wake of the Gabby Petito disappearance and death.
Taylor Sheridan was specifically inspired to write the film due to the thousands of stories of indigenous women being raped, exploited, and murdered on and off Indian reservations, with little to no attention being paid to the issue from the outside world. The film is about a murder on the Wind River Indian Reservation in Wyoming that an FBI agent (Elizabeth Olsen), a Fish and Wildlife tracker (Jeremy Renner), and the Tribal Police Chief (Graham Greene) all work to solve.
Unlike some of Taylor Sheridan’s other work, the film is not just a neo-Western style shoot ’em up. It’s a thoughtful and nuanced approach to the subject matter, with also just enough action to keep you intrigued, and is well-acted by all parties. Taylor Sheridan also directed the film.
Wind River also happens to be featured on Netflix at the moment.
The disappearance and death of Gabby Petito is a good reminder of all of the people who go missing or get murdered each year with no answers for the family. As much as we love to praise Taylor Sheridan for his efforts to revitalize the Western story in the modern context, and for shining a spotlight on cool country artists through his soundtracks, his effort to create renewed interest in the disappearance and deaths of so many Native American women should not be overlooked, any more than the thousands of missing persons cases every year.
September 25, 2021 @ 11:33 am
A fantastic movie! The year I watched it, in 2017, it was my favorite movie of the year, and it’s still one of the best movies that I have watched among the 5 last years. Sheridan is a very talented director.
September 25, 2021 @ 12:06 pm
Everything Sheridan touches turns to gold.
September 25, 2021 @ 12:33 pm
If Yellowstone was anything like this movie I’d have watched more than a few episodes.
September 25, 2021 @ 2:58 pm
I’m with you there. Love the movie.
September 26, 2021 @ 12:04 pm
If you are patient, the story is amazing – so many details. After third season it all makes crazy kind of sense. Love the writing!
September 25, 2021 @ 1:09 pm
Story sounds like it resonates with some elements of Longmire’s plot. Will check it out.
BTW, “1883”? Ought to be some Colter tracks plug-n-play ready for that.
On the new release front, the album from Taylor McCall is interesting..
September 25, 2021 @ 2:36 pm
Yes it has a very Longmire feel to it and the the Jeremy Renner character is very Walt like.
It’s a very good film but it must have been very difficult to film. Snow, snow, snow!
September 25, 2021 @ 2:38 pm
So far ‘Yellowstone’ has always been filmed in the summer and I believe they are now filming it almost exclusively in Montana.
September 25, 2021 @ 1:23 pm
Great movie, and I immediately thought of it during this whole Gabby Petito situation. Taylor Sheridan is an excellent neo-western storyteller, but his movies are better than his TV show(s) imho. I think Yellowstone plays like cheap melodrama, but paired with a great director and/or cinematographer his movies are unbeatable. I re-watch Hell or Highwater and Sicario frequently – modern classics.
September 25, 2021 @ 2:21 pm
Believe it or not, in the last two weeks I rewatched all three of these movies. Sicario and Hell Or High Water I first saw during their initial theatrical release. Not only did all three films impress me the first time around, they were at least as impressive on repeat viewings. Looking forward to Taylor Sheridan’s next big screen offering and hoping there will be a western slant to it as well.
September 25, 2021 @ 4:43 pm
Tangential, also check out the series Reservation Dogs which tells a story of life on an Oklahoma Indian Reservation with humor, intelligence, and an awesome soundtrack that includes some great country music!
September 26, 2021 @ 12:20 pm
there’s a whole under-the-radar Indian country music scene in different parts of the country. They get less attention from non-Indians because they don’t tend to make music videos or do a lot of social media and aren’t on the Nashville radar of course, but it’s a regional live music scene in a bunch of Western states.
September 27, 2021 @ 9:23 am
Second this. Great show, great soundtrack. I caught Freddy Fender’s “Wasted Days and Wasted Nights” on a recent episode. A few scenes in the series take place in some local honky-tonks. Whether real places or not I’m not sure, but it helps drive the point that country music isn’t an exclusively “white” genre or pastime. It’s been a part of rural communities, regardless of race, for decades. I think that reality is important to convey in popular culture, especially in the face of so much bad-faith misinformation by the left-leaning news media.
September 29, 2021 @ 4:07 am
Oklahoma reservations do not exist. All of Eastern Oklahoma is Indian Nation.
September 25, 2021 @ 6:30 pm
If I was that blonde girl, I’d wear a winter hat.
September 26, 2021 @ 10:33 am
The initial greenhorn nature of the Elizabeth Olsen character and her maturation and surprising strength as the movie unfolds is one of the best parts of the film, including how she shows up not dressed for the occasion.
September 25, 2021 @ 8:21 pm
Great movie. Just rewatched it on my honeymoon since it’s back on Netflix. Big fan of Sheridan’s movies. Heard mixed results about Yellowstone. Glad for what it does for good music though.
September 25, 2021 @ 10:46 pm
WIND RIVER was okay. It’s not on the level of SICARIO and HELL OR HIGH WATER. It might have been because it was Sheridan’s first directorial effort.
Tangentially, Sheridan portrayed my favorite character on Sons of Anarchy until his character was killed off.
September 26, 2021 @ 6:51 am
Wind River is the absolute best drama I’ve ever seen. Jeremy Renner was born for this character, and I would love it if Wind River became a franchise like some of the multiple action movies that get old after number 4! Wind River deals with actual everyday heartbreak of losing a child. So, please Mr Sheridan, if possible, keep writing and giving us more of what matters most!!
September 26, 2021 @ 11:01 am
Speaking of neo-westerns and Graham Greene, I always liked the movie Thunderheart. It has some similar elements to Wind River (with obvious differences too). It certainly feels like a “lost” movie that is worth dusting off.
September 26, 2021 @ 5:07 pm
WIND RIVER reminded me a lot of THUNDERHEART as well.
September 26, 2021 @ 7:38 pm
Please let me know when it airs and what channel.
September 26, 2021 @ 8:16 pm
I live in central MN and we have had 2 banks open in our town the past year, cannot stop and think about the line in Hell or High Water after one the banks was robbed and the old grumpy says the banks have been screwing us for years….never a more true statement uttered in a movie!
September 26, 2021 @ 8:18 pm
The editors at People Magazine need to see Wind River, never understood why one case would receive so much attention over another.
September 27, 2021 @ 9:10 am
This topic is something I’ve been complaining about for years. I am not sufficiently ‘woke”, but it doesn’t take “wokeness” to recognize certain inadequacies and inequities in different areas of society. Whenever the missing person is a white woman or little girl – especially a blonde – the media attention goes through the roof. Is it because they knew who reads and watches these sorts of things, and who will pay rapt attention to the coverage? Who are the biggest fans of ID? Who are the biggest consumers of mystery fiction and non-fiction? Yep. White women. If it’s relative to white women, white women will make it their main concern. Like pumpkin spice season. That’s not necessarily the fault of white women. It’s just in their nature, and they have the money and clout to get their concerns heard. The media are just bending towards that. It’s still not right. It’s just the way things are. No one cares enough when black kids or black women, or Native American or Hispanic women or children go missing, and people seem to care TOO much when white girls or women disappear.
I remember here in Jacksonville in the late 90s, there was a little girl named Maddie Clifton who disappeared. The search for her went on for days. It was all over the news 24/7. It made national news. It turned out that her next door neighbor – a boy of 12 – had beaten her to death with a baseball bat and hidden her inside his bedframe. He had been on the searches for her body, pretending as if he knew nothing. After her body was recovered, and funeralized, and buried, my girlfriend at the time (a white female) wanted to go to the gravesite. This was just within days of her being buried. I was uncomfortable with the idea, but you know, a guy’s gotta do what his girl wants sometimes. There were family members and friends of the girl there. I felt like a voyeur. I felt dirty, like I didn’t belong there. I didn’t know this sweet, cute little girl. Neither did my girlfriend, but she mourned for her like she was her own sister. White women. You gotta love ’em.
September 28, 2021 @ 8:21 am
The final scene in this movie, the conversation pictured at the top, is itself worth watching the rest of the film for. It’s more self-contained than Sicario or Hell or High Water; definitely a unique movie that is worth the time. Also, I believe “Diamonds and Gasoline” makes an appearance at one point.
January 18, 2022 @ 8:55 am
Heartbreaking and devastating! What happens to this beautiful young couple is hard to watch. I do love the movie very much. Everyone is talented and you can tell they are bringing their best for the roles they play. Wonderfully directed too. I cry thinking about the loss…and how cruel and unnecessary it was.