Tuesday, 13 February 2018

Alternate Best Actor 2017: Jeremy Renner in Wind River

Jeremy Renner did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Cory Lambert in Wind River.

Wind River tells the story of a murder of a young Native American woman on a Native American reservation investigated by the FBI, and the minimal local law enforcement aided by a local wild life tracker.

Wind River is an often problematic film in its approach towards its subject matter. This partially is in a more technical sense in writer Taylor Sheridan's inconsistent work while trying his own hand at directing one of his scripts where it strangely often plays closer to a TV pilot than a completely successful standalone feature film, but also more inherent towards the choices within the script not even considering the somewhat underwhelming plotting of the film. The faults within the script though are most readily evident in its attempt to adhere towards some greater importance within the story. Now aside from that it also includes the common trope, which has been questioned by many since at least Glory, which on a side note is actually a more easily justified example, where what should be a minority lead story follows white characters. This could have been avoided if the part I am going to address had been played by a Native American actor like Zahn McClarnon for example. The irony though is many of the flaws would have persisted within the film particularly since Jeremy Renner's performance as Cory Lambert is without a doubt the film's best quality.

What's so notable about Renner's work here is his completely atypical approach for a film that could have been made more of a revenge thriller of sorts, certainly with a different leading performance. Renner though from the outset very much emphasizes Cory as just this normal local guy from Wyoming working in and around the Native reservation by killing dangerous predators. Renner doesn't play him as this grizzled bent character, rather he takes a more naturalistic approach for a man who really is just living his life as the film opens. This isn't to say that Renner depicts the role with this carefree attitude, but what he does is find this certain tone that works so effectively for the role. Renner conveys just an inherent salt of the earth type of quality that is fitting to his character. He never over emphasizes this though in his approach. In that he does not make him this "man of few words" type, but rather just a working class hunter type whose more or less an average guy. Renner is able to exude this very specific vividness of the past, disregarding certain things we learn later about his character, but also in terms of a guy who has worked hard for many years in fairly rough conditions. Renner in regards to the man's setting and job doesn't show any exasperation towards that, but rather shows an authentic attitude of a man who lives a tougher life and is just fine living it as is.

We briefly see Cory going about his work and life with his divorced wife and son. Renner in these interactions is very good by only portraying this appreciation for both of them. There is not this overt somberness in this scene as Renner is able to realize the character's grief in a particularly remarkable way, although more on that in a moment. Renner in his family interactions though delivers that right familiarity with only that slight sense of distance with his wife. I love the expressive warmth he delivers in the scenes between Cory and his son. He has this one great moment where he reminds his son to be safe in his use of a gun. Renner plays this with an absolute concern for the moment which is fantastic moment because he reveals without a hint of paranoia. It is rather in the concern there is that brings this sense of just very firm care that he definitely wants his son to be okay without any over protectiveness to this. He obviously is perhaps more concerned than many a parent might be, which Renner alludes to the past that we learn later, yet he carefully shows that it is a greater concern from that past but not this damaging change. What Renner mostly shows though is just a still loving father and husband. As usual when Renner needs to deliver of charm he can, and this role in particular plays well to his unique strengths. In that Renner's charisma is very unassuming yet definitely there, which is perfect for the type of guy Cory is.

When the actual procedural begins Cory is the one who finds the body and along with the local police chief (Graham Greene) makes contact with the random FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) sent to investigate the crime. Renner is appropriately straight forward in the interactions. This isn't to say that he is ever underwhelming for a moment. Renner rather is so great in conveying the reactions natural to a guy who has had some hard times but hasn't been overwhelmed by them. When he sees the body and later describes it Renner delivers the line as a man who has in a way seen worse, however it isn't hollow. His delivery captures the right assumed emotion essentially in that he finds the right way to accentuate concern though in this very calm grounded way that Cory has basically found in his life. It's fantastic work through how lived in Renner finds this quality. For example when they later go about finding the murdered woman's brother, who is involved in some criminal activities, Cory delivers the news about her death to him after he obviously was unaware of her death. Renner puts forth the line very bluntly but not without emotion. It is rather outstanding how Renner here manages to infuse these most direct moments though still with honest concern, but within the rugged manner of this man. Renner just fully embodies the character so effectively throughout that everything just feels natural to who this man is.

Now perhaps where Renner derived his approach from is in a pivotal scene where Cory and the other investigators go to the murdered woman's father Martin (Gil Birmingham). Cory isn't there to interrogate the man but rather comfort it him as Cory also lost his daughter under similair circumstances. Renner is incredible in this scene as he physically and verbally exudes this philosophy as he speaks the words. Cory essentially tells Martin not to close himself from the past nor to forget it but rather embrace his grief in a specific way. In this Renner is able to find essentially how this man has come to terms with his own grief. As he speaks with this definite tenderness in his words as the love of a father reveals itself. His eyes reveal both this sense of loss of the daughter, but also a certain optimism within it as though is thinking of his best memories with her while giving Martin these words. It is not only a powerful stand alone scene but also wholly makes sense of this man who has found his way to cope with his daughter's loss. This is not to forget but to remember her best he can. We see this in Renner's work in that any moment he speaks about his loss, including when he describes what happened to her to Jane, Renner is very moving as he reveals the sorrow that lives in the man but in a way where he has found ease through the love he still holds for it.

When Martin essentially tasks Cory with killing the man responsible, which Cory basically already intended to do so, Renner grants the assurances not as this vicious hatred but rather this basic understanding as honoring one father's loss. Again Renner creates such a vivid realization of the man's personality and history that he makes his work all the more remarkable by so effectively portraying this different kind of lead for this type of film. He is able to maneuver between emotions because he shows it as just part of this straight forward guy Cory is. He has his slightly humorous and charming moments with Jane, and his concerned ones which Renner makes just the behavior you'd expect from him. What he also finds is this though is the drive to solve the case, which again he doesn't play as this obsession. Renner instead reveals as this serene type of passion that just is inherent to the man, as though it is a given that he will do as he has said. Renner makes this state of being a given as well as a completely earned facet of the character from how he has shown us the man right up until they solve crime. Although Cory kills most of the perpetrators as he would any out of control predator, he takes the lead man, who raped the woman, to die the same way she did. Before he does this though they have brief conversation where we perhaps are granted the most severe gap between acting quality of any single scene in 2017. This is where on one end we have one actor playing his part as a South Park caricature of a redneck "WHEEERRES MAAAAAA BOOTS", against Renner's amazing work. Renner doesn't let the abysmal quality of his co-star to interfere with him giving such a poignant piece work by delivering his "I'm going to kill you speech" with this elegance of a man who knows he's in the right and performing it as this duty. There is emotion within it yet Renner is stunning in the way he so internalizes it in the moment showing the man performing essentially this poetic execution so coldly towards the man, but with so much feeling within himself. Renner's final scene is great summation of his work as he goes to comfort Martin one last time with the minor closure of the death of the men responsible. Renner in the scene barely raises or breaks his voice, yet so calmly and still so directly revealing his warmth towards the man, love for his daughter, and his own grief with such subtle grace. Although one can argue over the choice in casting, Renner does his utmost to make up for that through this great performance.

57 comments:

Luke Higham said...

So happy he got his first five. One of the most underrated actors around.

Louis: I'd recommend Renner in Dahmer for 2002 Lead.

Luke Higham said...

You must be very happy Mitchell, 5 star performances can come from problematic films. :)

Calvin Law said...

Thematically I didn't have an issue with the 'greater importance' the film was trying to go for, I feel like that's kind of Sheridan's thing only this time he didn't have a seasoned director to rein him in. I do however want to hear everyone's thoughts on the marginalization and structural problems they found with the film, particularly in contrast to 'Hostiles' which the more I think about, I'd like to compare the two and their lead performances.

I do still like it quite a bit and Renner is undeniably great.

Bryan L said...

Louis: I had the feeling you'd consider Redmayne, Whishaw, and Gleeson to be Garfields contemporaries. Bit surprised you'd think of Pine though, but I see it.

Luke Higham said...

Looking at the rest of the contenders, Jane aside, the only one I'm not 100% on is Franco.

Matt Mustin said...

I'd give him a 4.5. He's very good, and indeed easily the best part of the film, but his performance didn't quite hit me on the level needed for me to give it a 5.

Matt Mustin said...

Also, Elton John and Ellar Coltrane could be next level awful, I still find it hard to believe that they could be worse than Jordan in this film.

Louis Morgan said...

Calvin:

That is definitely Sheridan's thing as he has more than a little Stanley Kramer and even Edward Zwick in him. I think the messages of Sicario and Hell or High Water were far more elegantly interwoven in the story. I agree that probably was in part due to Villeneuve and Mackenzie. Who knows, maybe he would've put cards at the end of Sicario and Hell or High Water as well.

Matt:

Well Coltrane is technically on the negative scale since he's really Wiseau worthy. Elton John I found to be about as equally aggravating to watch with his extended "cameo" that just keeps going, and going and going.

Mitchell Murray said...

Well I can't really comment on this one either. What I will say is that I didn't have nearly the same problem with the movie as apparently everyone else, and am honestly baffled at the negative reaction towards Jordan who I thought was fine.

Matt Mustin said...

Mitchell: He was trying way too hard to stand out, and in doing so just became embarrassing. Frankly, I can't believe Sheridan didn't stop him.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Agreed entirely. It's an intelligent approach that few actors would have thought to have tried. Renner is an actor who always manages to surprise, which is a rarity nowadays.

Mitchell Murray said...

This is just going to have to be one of those things, I guess, where I'm in a completely different camp than you lot.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Jordan's performance was like if 80's Eric Roberts tried to play Sam Rockwell in The Green Mile.

Matt Mustin said...

Robert: Have you seen Kill the Messenger? You'd love him in it.

Calvin Law said...

Sicario 2 will be the extended title card to Sicario.

Hell or High Water: 'Marcus Hamilton and Toby Howard died three minutes after this performance'

Calvin Law said...

I actually would say Jordan is far more aggravating to watch than John and Coltrane purely because of who he's acting against.

Mitchell Murray said...

Damn Robert.. those are two actors who should never share the same sentence

Matt Mustin said...

Calvin: Agreed. That scene in the snow is a great scene for Renner, and I felt so sorry for him for having to act off someone who was giving him nothing.

Matt Mustin said...

I mean, I can't say "agreed" because I haven't seen John or Coltrane, but you know what I mean.

Mitchell Murray said...

I've seen Coltrane, which is something I'm not especially proud of saying.

Calvin Law said...

Matt: Kingsman isn't worth watching, The Circle actually might be just because of how bad it is.

Robert MacFarlane said...

"Death threats, Mae" is probably the hardest I laughed at a bad movie moment in 2017 outside of the Ferris wheel scene in Death Note.

Mitchell Murray said...

The Circle almost enters so bad its good territory for me, but then it has Tom Hanks being kind of decent and it kind of ruins the illusion.

And to think, Emma Watson was originally going to be Mia in "La La Land"... I'm not sure I need to elaborate on that.

Calvin Law said...

As tempted as I am to see Death Note I feel I should watch the actual material first.

Charles H said...

Louis: Could he go up for Hurt Locker?

Anonymous said...

Louis: While I'm not sure if this is true or not, Heston was offered Murray's role in Advise and Consent, but declined it. How do you think he would have fared in the role?

Luke Higham said...

Off-Topic but what do you guys think of this Big Bang Theory spin-off 'Young Sheldon'.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Calvin: It’s pretty bewildering if you know the material. I’m not sure why Wingard thought the serial killer cat-and-mouse game of the original should instead be turned into some sort of Heathers-meets-Final-Deastination horror comedy, but he went on with his “vision” and did it. It’s even more bewildering knowing that this wasn’t the end result of some studio-mandated version of the story, because Netflix gave him full freedom.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Luke: Like FUCK will I ever watch that.

Luke Higham said...

Robert: I saw a commercial about 10 minutes ago and I felt like vomiting.

Luke Higham said...

And I'm not a fan of the show itself.

Mitchell Murray said...

I never cared for Big Bang Theory, and never felt its characters were at all charming. And between the terrible writing and actors who haven't proven themselves viable outside of the show (well.. aside from Laurie Metcalf obviously), I don't know who too blame more.

So naturally, I came to dislike Young Sheldon for the exact same reasons.

Mitchell Murray said...

Oh and before I forget Luke.. I'm happy to be proven wrong.

Luke Higham said...

Mitchell: :)

Louis: Have you seen The Greatest Showman.

Psifonian said...

I think you hit the nail on the head: Renner's casting is problematic because Cory Lambert should be a native character played by a native actor (Zahn McClarnon was the same actor I bandied about after the fact), but his performance is phenomenal and worthy of acclaim.

Robert MacFarlane said...

Psifonian: I was the one who suggested McClarnon to Louis.

Psifonian said...

Great minds, Robert.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your thoughts on the editing and cinematography of The French Connection.

Anonymous said...

Louis: your top 20 marcia gay harden acting moments

Tahmeed Chowdhury said...

The main problem with The Big Bang Theory is how it pokes fun at its target demographic. It seems to think that nerds liking Star Wars or saying something smart IS the joke. It's also disgustingly misogynistic at times.

Anonymous said...

Have any of you guys seen The Death of Stalin?

Alex Marqués said...

A question for everyone: are there any examples that come to your mind of movies that feature excellent directing that in your opinion deserve recognition in spite of not considering them great? This article is pretty interesting in this regard:
https://www.avclub.com/sometimes-the-best-directed-movie-isn-t-among-the-best-1822118009

Louis Morgan said...

Robert:

That's pretty apt description for Jordan's performance.

Charles:

Yes, also for Kill the Messenger, which is very underrated work from him.

Anonymous:

He'd seem completely miscast to me in that role.

Luke:

No, although I'll certainly try to get to it.

Anonymous:

The French Connection's editing is one of the film's highlights. I mean there are the more obvious example of it where it is at its most kinetic particularly in the subway chase scene and the famous car/train chase. Those are flawlessly edited as every cut just rises the tension before the proper release. The film probably has one of my favorite single moments of editing in film which is during the chase when Popeye has to avoiding the baby carriage pedestrian which is so perfectly executed. Of course it goes beyond that given that it would be easy enough to make one policeman after another slowly following or listening to people very boring. The editing is an essential facet in preventing that by just how well it paces every sequence whether that be the sorta montage of Popeye following the lead in the opening, or just the scenes in the middle of the more expansive police force staying on the suspect. What it does here though, sometimes forgotten by some of the films it perhaps influenced, it knows when to linger on a shot just as it know when to so smoothly utilize a swift succession of quick cuts.

The French Connection's cinematography is not often noted as one of its highlights but I would argue it is great work particularly in terms of how it is used in the film. After all it sort of denoted how NY would look for the rest of the 70's with its desaturated look. The film isn't about its beautiful shots, although it does have some great ones in there though always done with a very natural quality. Its aim is for this down and gritty look which I'll admit is always a choice that can go the wrong way. The French Connection is a great example of doing grit without throwing all sense of proper aesthetic out the window. This is particularly with the camera movements where they used a wheel chair dolly rather than hand held. I wish more films would take this idea as it gives enough of a documentary feel without becoming at all ugly in the camera movements.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Top Ten Feels more Fitting:

1. First Sacrifice - The Mist
2. Verna's demands - Miller's Crossing
3. Milk Drinking - The Mist
4. Meeting Pollock - Pollock
5. Funeral - Miller's Crossing
6. Reason for survival - The Mist
7. Pollock in the hospital - Pollock
8. Meeting with Verna - Miller's Crossing
9. Final conversation - Pollock
10. Before the mist - The Mist

Alex:

While I agree with the sentiment to a certain degree I think the article takes it one step too far. As much as it is the directors job to achieve their specific vision and ambition of their film, they should still make a compelling film while doing so. If the film is unique in terms of the directorial vision, but isn't successful as a film there is a failure there. To me this idea often boils down to how much can a director make up for a bad or mediocre script. I do think there is an example of this idea this year in Edgar Wright for Baby Driver who wrote a pretty poor screenplay, but his direction made it a whole lot better than it would have been if say Ron Howard had directed the film. Edgar Wright would be far higher up sort of my director ranking than he would be my actually ranking of the film because of his achievement.

In the writer's example of David Lowery for Ghost Story, Lowery's ambition in that film was admirable. As someone who liked the film I'd go further in that I would say it was successful overall. Although as written the film couldn't be more sparse, just because he had less to work with there doesn't inherently make his direction more remarkable than a different director with an equally ambitious and intelligent direction of his film, though just with a more inherently compelling screenplay. One could easily argue, even with that ambition, his choices were not fully successful in making his vision compelling. I'd disagree, but then even I would say he could have told the editor to cut short the pie eating scene. That would be a flaw in his direction that exists towards making a compelling film.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: I hope you give Renner a bonus review for 2014 lead, perhaps even a review for American Hustle if 2013 Supporting isn't strong enough.

And Paul King's directing a Willy Wonka film. It's unclear whether it's a 2nd remake of the original film though I hope it isn't.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

While under most circumstances I would not want to see a Wonka remake or even a Wonka origin story. I have to admit Paul King as director does change my tune.

Luke Higham said...

I'm definitely willing to give it a chance with King on board.

Luke Higham said...

Louis: Who would you cast as Willy Wonka.

Louis Morgan said...

Luke:

A tough one to cast I'll admit as it is hard to see someone perfecting what Wilder did in terms of being both very charming, heartfelt, yet with such a real edge too without becoming overly creepy. If going young I'd say Ben Whishaw, if going older maybe Jermaine Clement or Ralph Fiennes (think Grand Budapest).

Calvin Law said...

I actually think Stephen Merchant would be a perfect Willy Wonka.

Luke Higham said...

Yeah, Whishaw would easily be my pick too. Helps that he collaborated with King twice.

Calvin Law said...

Anonymous: I've seen Death of Stalin, it's good.

Anonymous said...

Louis: Your casts for a 40's Scarecrow and a 50's No Way Out.

Alex Marqués said...

Louis: I guess everyone has a different idea of what "formally interesting" is. Interesting that you mention Baby Driver, since this writer praised Wright's tecnical achievement even if he didn't like the movie. I don't think the article is saying that it's more remarkable to work with a more sparse (or in some cases weak) script, but I think that can make the directing (in terms of execution, rather than ambition) more noticeable, even if it doesn't mean the movie is automatically better.

Alex Marqués said...

Ultimately, I guess it depends on what one considers to be choices made by the director (even if in theory he's responsible for everything we're seeing in a movie). It's interesting.

Louis Morgan said...

Anonymous:

Scarecrow 40's:

Max: James Cagney
Lion: James Stewart

No Way Out 50's (I'll assume you mean the Costner film):

Lieutenant Farrell: Paul Newman
Brice: Humphrey Bogart
Pritchard: James Whitmore
Susan Atwell: Jean Simmons

Louis Morgan said...

Alex:

I don't think the article was saying that either in terms of scripts, though I agree it can be more noticeable to seeing directing when the script is obviously not great.

In terms of knowing what the director is doing, so to speak. I think the easiest way to show that to someone who is not aware, is through remakes to be honest. For example comparing Infernal Affairs to The Departed you can clearly see the different choices made by Scorsese and Andrew Lau.