Wind River: Movie Man Jackson

Welcome to Wyoming. Wind River, to be exact. In this Indian Reservation lies a lot of cold, snowy weather and a constant air of misery for many who live here. US Fish and Wildlife Service agent/tracker Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) is called on to look into a situation that involves local cattle being killed by another predator. Upon his investigation, Lambert stumbles upon a frozen corpse, a corpse that wasn’t prepared for the harsh outside elements. Foul play is suspected.

The corpse is identified as Natalie Hanson, an 18 year-old resident of the reservation. Now a murder mystery, FBI rookie agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) is called into the Wyoming setting to investigate. Ill-prepared for Wind River, Banner must rely on her instincts and the guile of Lambert to solve this case and bring justice to Natalie and her remaining family.

It’s clear that the modern day Western genre bears little resemblance to the Westerns of yesteryear inhabited by John Wayne, Walter Brennan, and the like. Instead, today’s movies that could be classified as Westerns take inspiration from that genre but homogenize with others; think SicarioHell or High Water, and now Wind River. All three of these movies share a common tie: the writing credit of Taylor Sheridan. With Wind River, Sheridan gets the opportunity to direct what he writes. The result is a crime feature that doesn’t quite match the brilliance of his most recent writing, but shows more than enough to see Sheridan mentioned in the same future conversation as his directing contemporaries.

Wind River is a little bit of a slow burn—almost agonizingly so—at least in the early going. Sheridan’s first act introduces a few details, but overall, it seems to serve as an environment setup more than real story setup. However, Wind River does kick into gear around the time the awesome Gil Birmingham comes into the frame. Unlike his somewhat light character in Hell or High Water, Birmingham plays a somber, detached Native American father trying to cope with what happened to his daughter. From here, the straightforward story finds its groove.

While not as thematically complex as his prior work, Sheridan uses Wind River, inspired by true events, to shine light on—albeit not without legitimate white hero controversy—many Native American reservations and the hopelessness/negligence that they may carry. They may not resemble the traditional looking ghettos, but the mental and draining effect this environment has on many of the movie’s characters is entirely the same, pushing them towards bad things or paralyzing inaction.

The environment is more of a living and breathing character than almost all in the movie. Technically, Sheridan isn’t perfect yet; some aforementioned early pacing issues exist. A prolonged flashback, although filling in what exactly happened, sort of comes out of nowhere. But, an old-fashioned Mexican standoff that evolves into a big set piece, and a mid-movie suspect visit stand as some of the year’s most tension-drenched moments.

Wind River does come up short in one half of the lead character department. That’s no indictment on Elizabeth Olsen, she makes the most of what is presented to her and carries enough chemistry with Jeremy. This is Renner’s movie, however, and credit goes to Sheridan for writing a very detailed lead in Cory Lambert with gradual backstory revealed that draws the audience closer to his personal journey. It would have been easy for Renner to play this as a Liam Neeson knockoff, but Renner doesn’t, instead opting for a realistic and everyman approach. He’s a cowboy without the gusto, but a believer in frontier justice. His work here is a reminder that Renner’s is more than just a 2nd team Avenger.

The water isn’t particularly deep or 100% purified in Wind River. But ultimately, it is compelling as a simple pseudo-Western crime feature.

B

Photo credits go to collider.com, cinemavine.com, and bleedingcool.com.

For additional detailed thoughts on films both small and large, games, and the key moments that comprise each, check out ThatMomentIn.com

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The Accountant: Movie Man Jackson

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*Blows fingers two times before typing this.* Christian Wolff (Ben Affleck) makes his money as an accountant, balancing spreadsheets, doing audits, the like. He’s The Accountant for some of the world’s most dangerous individuals and organizations, working behind an unassuming storefront to conduct his business.

How does he do it, lying in bed with such shady bedfellows? Christian lives with a high-functioning level of autism, which allows him to simply focus on the numbers and do his job, while simultaneously making it difficult to be sociable with people. Seeing some weird activity, the U.S. Treasury Department works night and day to figure out who is working behind the scenes for these organizations, which prompts Wolff to invest his talents in a real client—a state of the art robotics company. However, after clearing the books, something doesn’t add up. But the dead people certainly do, and if Christian isn’t careful, he could be next.

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Attention Bryan Mills, John Wick, Jason Bourne, Robert McCall: It is time to welcome Christian Wolff into your badass circle of ass-kickery. Director Gavin O’Connor’s (Warrior, Jane Got a Gun) latest in The Accountant is a lot of things. It’s a drama, it’s an action, it’s a crime, it’s a romance, it’s a character study. Truth be told, not all of it meshes well, but it somehow works…just enough.

In Christian Wolff, The Accountant showcases a very intriguing character. The “exploration” of autism—in this specific case, Asperger’s—isn’t something seen often in movies, so it still feels fresh when done. Going beyond the repetitiveness and physical cues that sometimes define autism, O’Connor fleshes out his lead character with well-timed flashbacks that do their job in understanding who Wolff is and how he has the skills he does. Visually and even musically, the style is pretty cold in its cool blues and dark hues, (in a good way) in what seems to be a direct reflection of it main, mostly expressionless, character.

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And one has to give it up to Ben Affleck, who in recent years appears to have found his groove as an actor. No, he’ll never be dynamic or a complete chameleon, but there’s a benefit in knowing how to stay in your own lane and play to your strengths, his in particular being good at being stoic. Affleck is undoubtedly the strongest aspect of The Accountant. He’s not all cold and gloom, though, as O’Connor gives Affleck a few opportunities for dry humor that build a connection with his character, especially when he’s with Anna Kendrick. Kendrick doesn’t have a meaty role, but it is important, and her chemistry with Affleck and how she plays off of him is wonderful without being sappy.

Where the film loses its balance is around the second half mark, in which all of the plot strands, balanced imperfectly but adequately in the first half, start to become a little messy and/or possibly unneeded. The biggest offender is a strand involving two characters played by J.K Simmons and Cynthia Addai-Robinson who are looking for the accountant. It’s a plot that appears important, but is eventually revealed to only be present as exposition that is drawn out to an agonizing length, and at the end, one may be left wondering why this strand was really needed. 

As The Accountant moves away from its jack-of-all-trades approach to genre and more into action territory as it goes along, I do believe that the focus on its central character becomes lost. Well, not completely lost, but relegated to the backseat. By the end, what makes Wolff all that different from a Wick, Bourne, Mills, or McCall, all films that are decidedly action? I thought less about the person and more about the action said person committed. With that said, the action itself is well-filmed.

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What’s the final audit report on The Accountant? Not a liability, but in need of a few execution adjustments.

C+

Photo credits go to drafthouse.com, geeknation.com, and comingsoon.net.

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