After scripting the surprise hits Sicario and Hell or High Water, Taylor Sheridan plunks himself down in the director's chair for Wind River, a murder-mystery that further explores his fascination with wide-open spaces and the desperate, sometimes doomed souls who populate them.
Set on a Native American reservation in Wyoming, the film reveals its twists slowly but surely, with Sheridan confident that his lead heroes will keep you captivated as he breaks his story down. He's mostly right: Jeremy Renner's veteran game-tracker, once a part of the reservation but now just a humbled guest, is a curious protagonist, at once moody but extremely capable. He's partnered with Elizabeth Olsen's confident FBI agent and Graham Greene's rock-solid reservation police chief, an unlikely trio that poke holes into the landscape's more unsavoury corners.
Sheridan knows how to craft a tidy whodunit – and a late-act switch in perspective works better than it should – but he eventually leans toward sermonizing instead of storytelling, a well-intentioned move that edges the story just this close to melodrama.