Friday 23 February 2018

Renner is ice cool in clever murder mystery

  • Wind River (16, 107mins) ★★★★
  • Insyriated (15A, 86mins) ★★★
  • The Drummer And The Keeper (15A, 94mins) ★★★
On the hunt: Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in Wind River
On the hunt: Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner in Wind River

Paul Whitington

Jeremy Renner is one of the best film actors going the roads given the right role, and he's certainly given that in Wind River. A snowy procedural set on a woe-begotten Arapaho reservation in Wyoming, Taylor Sheridan's cleverly paced film opens with a young Native American woman running naked across an icy plain. Next time we see her, she's frozen solid and the question is who killed her.

Renner is Cory Lambert, a US parks and wildlife tracker and hunter who has deep ties to the Wind River reservation. His ex-wife comes from there, his son is half-native American, and his daughter died in alarmingly similar circumstances a couple of years before. The dead girl was her friend and when Cory finds her petrified body, a cold fury descends upon him as he silently vows to find and punish the culprit.

The case falls under the remit of the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the local sheriff (Graham Greene) is not best pleased when a young FBI agent is also assigned to the case. Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) comes from Florida and has not arrived dressed for the snow: but she's tenacious, a quality Cory quickly recognises, and he decides to help her find her feet.

Wind River's setting is bleakly evocative and Taylor Sheridan's screenplay is always more interested in character than plot.

His movie begins slowly and is built around the simmering rage of Renner's kindly but taciturn hunter, whom we watch stalking wolves, and later men. The plight of Native Americans stranded on some of America's worst land without hope or prospects is obliquely investigated, but all the while Wind River builds towards a sudden, explosive and altogether unforgettable climax.

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No doubt there'll be lots of films charting the untold miseries of the Syrian conflict in the coming years, and Insyriated approaches the grim subject through the medium of a housebound ensemble piece. Israeli-Palestinian actress Hiam Abbass is Oum Yazan, the fearsome matriarch of an extended family that has survived the war by laying low. Her Damascus apartment is a refuge for her daughters, son, father-in-law and married neighbours Selim and Harima.

That couple are about to flee Syria, but when Selim goes out to finalise arrangements, he's shot dead by a sniper. Oum is determined that Harima not find out, but the secret grows ever harder to keep.

Belgian director Philippe Van Leeuw partly cast the film with Syrian refugees, no doubt adding to its veracity. It has tension in spades and Hiam Abbess is excellent in the lead role, but Insyriated doesn't really tell us much about the wider conflict and its screenplay is bland and unsubtle at times.

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At the start of Nick Kelly's The Drummer And The Keeper, a dissolute-looking young man drags a sofa that has no doubt mortally offended him on to Dollymount Strand and sets it alight. He is Gabriel (Dermot Murphy), a drummer with a Dublin rock band. They're on the point of being signed by a label, but Gabriel's success is threatened by spiralling self-destructive tendencies.

When he crashes and burns, Gabriel reluctantly seeks psychiatric help and meets a young man called Christopher (Jacob McCarthy), who has Asperger's and lives in a care home. Gabriel is horrified when Christopher mistakes his polite disinterest for friendship and begins turning up at gigs. But the fake friendship will become actual and have lasting consequences for both men.

Kelly's film is handsomely shot and addresses worthwhile issues. McCarthy is superb as Christopher, whose honesty and tendency to take things literally could teach us all a valuable lesson. But the film is unnecessarily sentimental at times and the self-absorbed Gabriel is so immensely dislikeable it's hard to wish him well.

Irish Independent

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