Taylor Sheridan's tense, terse police procedural/Western, Wind River, begins with an icy, moonlit, Wyoming landscape. There's no one for miles, except a gasping, Native American teenage girl running in the snow, terrified and barefoot.
She falls. Screams. Gets up. Runs some more.
Cut to bright daylight. A wolf stalking a flock of sheep. A shot rings out as this predator is felled by another: a marksman who, in his snow-camouflage gear, blends invisibly into the landscape. Cory (played by Jeremy Renner) also blends in socially, though there aren't many folks to blend in with next to the Wind River Indian Reservation. His being close to the people there is what makes this film compelling in a genre that's become so cut-and-dried the term "thriller" barely describes it any more.
Sheridan wrote Hell or High Water, the 2016 Oscar-nominated police procedural that was also unusual for being character-based and surprising. This time, he's sitting in the director's chair, and he turns out to be as adept at realizing the words on a script's page as he is at putting them there in the first place.
He has conceived Cory as a man of few words and enormous pain. After losing a teenage daughter, he became estranged from his Native American wife (Julia Jones) but remains devoted to both her and their son, Casey (Teo Briones). So he offers to take the boy to visit her parents on the reservation while she's away job hunting. It'll be an opportunity to mentor the kid about rifles ("Remember, a gun's always loaded, even when it ain't"), something Cory does almost without thinking, passing on skills, insights, knowledge — a trait that will soon come in handy.