Taylor Sheridan, the writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water, has turned in a stunning directorial debut that melds his signature economy of dialogue and accomplished feel for the ebb and flow of backcountry America with a lyrical visual style. The frozen mountains of Wyoming serve as the locale to a murder investigation where FBI outsider (Elizabeth Olsen) partners with a fish and game tracker (Jeremy Renner) and an Indian reservation sheriff (Graham Greene) to solve the rape and murder of a teen found in the snow.
Sheridan is the nephew of a former U.S. Marshal and a Texas sheriff, and as with his prior films, his replication of the patter of law enforcement feels as if he has spent a great deal of time at their knee. His characters avoid the bravado and cliche’ of too many movie cops. It’s a matter-of-fact world but not cartoonish macho, one that exudes cynicism but professionalism. Like Emily Blunt in Sicario, Olsen is not the standard female cop who has to “prove” herself. There is no overcompensation.
The performances are understated and moving, and Renner in particular well renders the pain of a haunted but determined man.
Sheridan is also deftly political, never overt but still seamlessly intertwining some of the cultural realities in rural American with the narrative. It never gets in the way of the pace, and Sheridan’s handling of the thrill part of thriller is assured. The crescendo to a violent explosion is damn near excruciating
One of the better films of the year, which admittedly ain’t saying much this year, but that shouldn’t be held against this picture.