I’ve called the southwest home my entire life. My family’s legacy here stretches back even further. I’m the great grandson of dust bowl farmers, the great-great-great nephew of Texas Ranger Benjamin McCulloch who called Davy Crockett neighbor. New Mexico and Texas are where my roots are.
When I see the southwest portrayed in film or television my BS detector is on high alert, so last year it was refreshing when Hell or High Water hit the big screen. Starring Jeff Bridges, Chris Pine, and Ben Foster, the film was shot in and around Clovis and mentions Lubbock a couple times. It captured the heart of people out here, and showed the devastation of certain areas due to economic downturn, drought, and all the other factors that have harmed the region that we’ve seen take place over the past 20 years.
Taylor Sheridan, the screenwriter of Hell or High Water, gets this place. He was raised on a ranch in Texas and so the lifestyle and culture are in his blood. His body of work, starting with Sicario, then Hell or High Water, and now Wind River are all part of the same spirit of filmmaking that embodies the southwest, or more so encompasses the idea of the modern west.
The newest of the 3 is Wind River, which Sheridan didn’t just write but directed. This time, he’s out of the southwest and up in Wyoming for a murder-mystery thriller. But even though the subject matter hinges on a mystery, Sheridan still laces in the type of character and culture-building that most movies pass over to advance a cliché plot.
Jeremy Renner stars as Cory Lambert a regional game tracker who stumbles upon a grisly murder and when help arrives it’s a green FBI agent played by Elizabeth Olsen. While it’s a pretty standard fish out of water, rugged local, team up film, Sheridan takes the time to show the culture and the inherent issues of decay as the west is overlooked for the coasts and people are left to defend for themselves. In a tense and trying moment Olsen asks Renner how people survive, his reply, “Luck don’t live out here." You can watch Wind River this weekend when it opens at the Alamo Drafthouse.