Wind RiverTaylor Sheridan (USA 2017)Jeremy Renner, Elizabeth Olsen
viewed: CineWorld Newcastle 26 Sept 2017; ticket £4.00
One cheap cut does not a movie make
Sheridan has opted to make a cloyingsyrupy sub prime all American drama… A film that ticks all the usual Hollywood post Spielberg value boxes.His idea I think was to make a film that looked like it referenced Cohn Bros’ ‘Fargo’, full of beards and bearded mutterings affirming rugged acentric idiosyncratic individualism; but which ultimately drew its values from a primary statement of American decency.
Wind River displays an insecurity of legitimacy.A sort of tortuous white man’s guilt about his relationship to past crimes, in this case the genocide and systematic cultural and social undermining of the native American.The problem with the scripting is that it pitches message first and in consequence doesn’t usethe scenario to point up what is happening.Rather it crudely showboats its concerns.Everything has to be underlined just so we know Wind River’s ‘cred’ is right on! OK.
With its lone hero Cory the tracker and its FBI Jane, we have a corresponding version ofthe Hector /Clarince Starling relationship; the naïve female seeking advice from the man who knows his onions. In soft expressive cinema, this type of relationship always feels to me like Hollywood’s coded gesture of appeasement to the feminists: that men are noble patriarchs who will always share their knowledge on a basis of equality. In short it feels condescending script gesture.
The first third of the movie is devoted to the establishment by Sheridan of Cory’s all American ‘cowboy’ credentials.Its not really clear why so much time is devoted to this cowboy ‘idyll’ the purpose of which is simply to establish the protagonist as a very good man, perhaps only slightly flawed by his ‘silence’.Sheridan makes us watch Cory’s relationship with his son Casey ( the offspring of his estranged native Indian wife).We see Cory dutifully teaching his boy the important things: how to handle a horse, some down home truths (philosophy) and some how to hunt stuff. Cory is establishedas a father and a good all American: humble but proud, honest and plain speaking, the man who sees clearly where others do not see.The problem is that it is predictable cliché.
All of which sets up the horror of the final section of the movie in which Jane and Cory fall in love: she vocal ballsy; him strong silent type.Of course they should get together: the movie turns into a dating site.It was better when the strong silent types just rode off into the distance, taming their dating proclivities.
The script develops with an inexorable predictability through to the final romancing. The good guys are good, and the bad guys bad: white hats; dark hats. The native Americans have problems, but there is hope that given the right conditions these problems can be overcome.
It is in its staging and structure that Sheridan reveals his clumsiness in filling out the scenario. The locked gun fight sequence, when everyone pulls out their guns at the same time.The shot doesn’t work except as a reminder that Mel Brookes and the Marx Brothers knew how to pull off this type of idea; however they knew what they were doing, Sheridan evidently does not.In the lead up to this locked gun fight sequence there is a major change in shooting style.Having shot his film conventionally in basic privileged camera access style, he suddenly reverts to a series of drone shots taking us over the hills.Drone shots that look like they belong in another movie.At the very least these shots seems to suggest the opening of a new phase of the movie.But they don’t. These drone shots seem rather to be a token of the director’s insecurity;the current idea that all movie’s made today should have a drone sequence, just to show the audience know you know you can handle a drone.
Sheridan’s director’s moment comes when he invokes a cut, a splice in the action to transport the film through time to reveal the sequence of action that explains the core mystery of the film and its opening shots. Sheridan exploits the opening of a door, to reverse both time and position, outside to inside.But somehow in the crudity of the film the cut seems barely more than crass, an excuse for cleverness not insight, even the insight of an opening door.
Like much of the output of today’s Hollywood, Wind River wants to contain a bit everything to play out to the divergent constituencies of the leisure industry.So we have some Big John Wayne, a nod to feminism with FBI Jane, some politically correct fathering and native American Indians. The problem is that a bit of everything can end up with a lot of nothing.