Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner team up in one of the best mystery thrillers I have ever seen. Renner plays a hunter in a small Native American community. From the first few scenes, we are aware that there is a hidden tragedy in his life and the life of his family. That hidden tragedy is the core of this movie, and probably its genesis as well. After Renner finds a frozen, bloody body of one young local woman in the snow, Elizabeth Olsen, playing an FBI agent, shows up. Together they will try to solve the mystery of the dead young woman.
It sounds quite simple and formulaic, but the movie is brilliant. It takes a well-established formula and reaches pushes it to its zenith. The cinematography, music, and pacing all create a very unnerving and nerve-wracking thriller. The height of the thrills is the shootout scene towards the end of the movie when everything is starting to unfold and when we see what really happened the night the young woman died.
Loss is ever-present in the lives and community of Native Americans. And they have learned how to deal with it. They had to, no other option was given to them. They lost lives protecting their lands, but the lands are also gone now. The size and shape of their lands have stabilized now, but loss is still everpresent. They are losing people every day. Some move away, looking for a brighter future. Others are lost to crime, drugs, murder. That is what Renner’s character learns first hand. Like the people he joins and marries into, he has also lost one of his life’s essences, a pillar of his being and his life. These people are warriors, fighters, and he had to become one to be their equal.
The movie is realistic about revenge. We all want to be our best –insert monotheistic religious morals here-, but we are not. There is something in us, that wants some sort of balance of lost and gained. And when you combined that with realizing that you have absolute power over your object for revenge, the sadistic part of us starts to creep out, bit by bit. Like a symbiote in the Spiderman Universe, it engulfs us fully, changing us. We are there for the ride, we enjoy it, the power, the begging, the judgment over life and death, but the transformation catches us by surprise.
Jeremy Renner is incredible in this movie. I don’t think there is a single emotion, be it positive or negative that he does not convey in this movie, but also makes you feel them as well. Watching him in mostly roller-coaster movies fogs your judgment of his acting talents. Such a brilliant performance in such an incredible movie dismisses that fog and shines the brightest of lights upon this master of the acting craft.