A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Wind River is a very violent crime/murder story set on a Native American reservation in Wyoming. There's a brutal rape scene, plus fighting, beating, and bludgeoning, lots of guns/shooting, gory dead bodies, and plenty of blood. A wolf is also shot and killed. Language is very strong in certain scenes, with many uses of "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and more. Secondary characters are shown dangerously, abusively drunk in one scene, and some characters smoke cigarettes. In one scene, a man and a woman kiss passionately and lie in bed together; sex is implied and mentioned. A few characters are scantily clad, but no actual nudity is shown. While some may raise eyebrows at a Native American story being told with white main characters (including Jeremy Renner and Elizabeth Olsen), the movie does make a point of sending a message about the shameful fact that -- unlike women in any other culture -- Native American women who go missing aren't tracked or counted. The movie marks the directorial debut of Taylor Sheridan, who wrote Sicario and Hell or High Water, and it's another smart, solid, but very mature story.
What's the story?
In WIND RIVER, Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) works in the freezing mountains of Wyoming as a tracker and hunter, stopping wild animals from killing livestock. On a nearby Native American reservation, he discovers the body of a teen girl. An FBI agent, Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen), is called in, and it's determined that the girl was raped and then tried to run, barefoot, across the freezing snow. Working with the local sheriff, Ben (Graham Greene), Lambert and Banner try to figure out what happened. At first, events point toward the girl's boyfriend, but things aren't as they seem. At the same time, Lambert deals with the loss of his own daughter, and his relationship with his Native American ex-wife and their young son, as well as his friendship with the dead girl's father, Martin (Gil Birmingham).
Is it any good?
Actor-turned-screenwriter Taylor Sheridan makes his directorial debut with this smart, solid crime movie that, while not without its flaws, makes excellent use of open spaces and haunting quiet. Sheridan wrote two of cinema's sharpest recent crime stories, Sicario and Hell or High Water; he now adds Wind River to that list. All three films are set in lawless communities, like modern-day Westerns; this one uses its snowbound Wyoming passages to suggest that, if the characters go poking near danger, no one is coming to the rescue. A haunting score by Nick Cave and Warren Ellis helps set the tone.
The characters' restrained, stoic nature can make Wind River feel like it has skipped over certain details, simply because some things aren't discussed, but it's easy to forgive a movie that favors mood over chatty dialogue. Wind River gets into controversial territory by telling a Native American story with two white leads, but at least it's a well-told, intelligent, and respectful story, and the characters are interesting in and of themselves. They don't feel obligatory. And, as with his last two movies, Sheridan has something to say about the world here -- and he says it with compassion and without preaching.
Talk to your kids about ...
Did watching this movie raise any questions of representation for you? Is it appropriate to tell this story with white lead characters? Why or why not?
A character explains that luck doesn't exist out in the country, that everything depends on struggle to survive. Do you agree?
How did the closing message about missing Native American women make you feel? Were you aware of the situation?
- In theaters: August 4, 2017
- On DVD or streaming: November 14, 2017
- Cast: Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen, Graham Greene
- Director: Taylor Sheridan
- Studio: The Weinstein Company
- Genre: Thriller
- Run time: 107 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and language
For kids who love thrills
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.