Oscar bait is always afoot at the end of the year. It’s never a surprise when some come out of the Sundance Film Festival. There are always films you can’t fit into your schedule and then hope to see theatrically. When even that isn’t possible, you wait for the video release to roll around. This year it was writer/director Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River. Having made a name for himself writing Sicario and Hell or High Water — for which he was Oscar nominated for Best Original Screenplay this year — it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Wind River in the same category, if not more next year.
Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service agent who discovers the frozen body of 18-year-old Natalie (Kelsey Asbille) out in the woods on the Wyoming Wind River Indian Reservation. Suspecting foul play, FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is brought in to investigate. It all hits too close to home for Cory — who’s dealing with personal trauma of his own — after the body of Natalie’s boyfriend Matt (Jon Bernthal) is also found. Now, Cory and Jane must find out the truth to what happened and who’s behind the murders in a land where missing persons are an unfortunate way of life.
Lionsgate Films presents Wind River on Blu-ray framed in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1 on a 50GB disc. Considering the very few special features, the film looks exceptional. Contrast delivers pure white snow where it could have easily turned blue or gray. Detail is razor sharp keeping facial features, clothing textures, and mountain terrain exceptionally distinguishable. A few scenes look as sharp as 4K when upscaled on my 75” UHD TV.
Colors are also extremely lifelike keeping skin tones from becoming too pink or pale. The included 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio Tracker is also a winner. An encroaching storm makes for a high intensity level while the wind blows snow from one speaker to the other keeping the surrounds engaged. Even during quieter moments there’s plenty of ambiance. During the big action scene, bass booms appropriately with each gun round. Directionality is also spot on with dialogue crisp and clear no matter the circumstance. Subtitles are available in English and Spanish.
The special features are of the standard EPK variety and come short and sweet. A pair of deleted scenes (3 minutes) include “Sounds Like Wolves” and “Jane Checks Into the Motel” are hit and miss. The Jane scene is much better as it introduces her to the reservation’s idea of the government. A “Behind the Scenes Video Gallery” (10 minutes) is split up between Renner, Olsen, and Sheridan as they discuss the acting, characters, and reality of the story. Surprisingly, not even the film’s trailer is included.
Wind River is the kind of film that you probably didn’t see in theaters as it never arrived with much fanfare. It has been hot on my radar since January, and I’m glad I’ve finally been able to see it. Renner gives a somber best performance, while Olsen proves she’s great when not saddled with her silly accent as Scarlet Witch in the Marvel movies. Yes, this does pair Scarlet Witch and Hawkeye, but gives them both way more to do. The story makes an impact when you realize that so many American Indian women go missing as the end title card informs. For those looking for a slow burn with an actual payoff full of great performances — the whole cast is fantastic — Wind River is one of the year’s best thrillers and films so don’t be surprised to hear its title pop up again come awards time.