Wind River is a 2017 murder mystery written and directed by Taylor Sheridan.
10 out of 10 stars for a beautiful film. From the writing and acting to the cinematography and music, it’s the perfect story about overlooked people.
The film begins with a seventeen year-old Native American girl running barefoot through the snow screaming. She’s found dead the following day by a hunter who also knows her. Her name is Natalie and not much is known about where she was that evening or who killed her, but she was brutally beaten and raped before she died.
The head of the tribal police, Ben Shoyo, calls in the FBI since the murder occurred on tribal land. They send a newbie, young Jane Banner. Jane immediately enlists the help of the hunter who found the girl, Cory Lambert, who happens to work for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
Natalie has a brother who’s always high on drugs and is also a dealer. He hangs out at a drug den only a few miles from where Natalie’s body is found, so they assume she was headed there. Her brother isn’t even aware that she was missing, but he gives them the name of the man she was dating, Matt Rayburn. Matt was a security guard for the nearby gas drill site owned by a Texan company and he was old enough to be her father. They have six security guards, all uneducated white men in their forties with bad tempers and guns.
The day after Natalie’s body is found, Matt’s body is discovered, naked and eaten by wolves. But he was obviously beaten to death. So Jane makes arrangements with Ben to get additional police to go with them to visit the drill site and question Matt’s coworkers the following day. Then she asks Cory why he’s helping her. He tells her about his daughter Emily who died under similar circumstances three years ago. Emily and Natalie were best friends.
There are so many things that Jane misses when they visit the drill site. There are four men and one hiding in the trailer. They are all wearing bulletproof vests. Why? They know Natalie’s name which was never reported or announced. Then they surround Ben, Jane, and the other officers and pull their weapons. She assumes they’re just jumpy. They’re not. They’re cold-blooded rapists and murderers.
Before long the security guards start shooting the cops, starting with Jane. What they don’t see coming is Cory in white camouflage coming at them from behind with a long distance rifle. After they kill everyone except Jane he picks them off one at a time with his homemade long-range bullets. The one hiding in the trailer jumps out the window and flees. After Cory tends to Jane’s wounds and gives her the radio to call for a helicopter he hunts down that rapist, gets a confession to the rape and murder, and leaves him to die the same way Natalie died–pulmonary hemorrhage from inhaling sub-zero air as she ran for her life.
Flashbacks show what happened that night. Matt was supposed to be alone so Natalie had friends drop her off nearby and she walked across the mountain to see him. Then the five other guards, who were supposed to be in town all night, show up drunk and beat Matt to death, beat and rape Natalie, then chase her into the snow in bare feet. They dispose of Matt’s body and wait for someone to come asking questions.
10 out of 10 stars. There’s a lot going on in this film. It shows the desperation of a people who are largely forgotten. Statistics are kept on missing persons for every demographic EXCEPT Native American women.
Winner of the 2017 Cannes Film Festival.