Jeremy Renner’s Best Performance Isn’t as an Avenger

Jan 17, 2023

Renner gives us the modern cowboy in this Taylor Sheridan-directed crime thriller.

Image Via The Weinstein Company

When someone brings up Jeremy Renner in conversation, typically it is because they are referring to his roles in Marvel movies and shows such as The Avengers, or Hawkeye. Although portraying the bow-and-arrow-toting hero is what he’s known for it is far from his best performance. Even his breakout role in The Hurt Locker and more recent TV role in Mayor of Kingstown fall short of his powerhouse performance in the 2017 indie called Wind River.

What Is ‘Wind River’ About?
Wind River is a neo-Western crime drama written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (Yellowstone, 1923, Sicario). It is set on a Native American reservation in Wyoming where Jeremy Renner plays Cory Lambert, a wildlife officer who finds the body of a friend’s daughter, Natalie, in a snow-covered field. She had been the victim of a brutal rape and died as a result of her lungs freezing during her escape from the assailant. Lambert then teams up with FBI agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) to track down the perpetrator and bring justice to a place where it often isn’t found.

Renner Brings an Emotional Honesty to ‘Wind River’
Renner clearly has a penchant for high-intensity action roles, and that isn’t necessarily different with Wind River, but the level of depth in the character is. The officer Renner is playing is still harboring an emotional scar from losing his own daughter in a similar way to the current case. He is also divorced and has to share time with his son between him and his ex-wife. Rather than play the role of someone obsessed with revenge or angrily triggered by the events that unfold, Renner dials it back and is able to show that Cory Lambert is keeping his emotions just barely at bay. This shows the subtlety of Renner’s performance. The loneliness and struggle of Lambert are felt in every frame of the non-action scenes he’s in, yet he maintains his stoicism throughout the film. It creates an emotional honesty that is surrounded by a gruff and calculated exterior.

Image via Lionsgate

An example of this silent bravado guarding sadness that Renner is able to embody is during a scene where Lambert is talking with Jane Banner at his home. Lambert notices that Banner is eyeing a photograph of his daughter. Whether it’s the darting eyes or the perfect delivery of parental advice hiding pain, “you can’t even blink, not once” when he recounts the disappearance and murder of his own daughter, the audience is in the room with him. The pitch in Lambert’s words fluctuates with a subtleness of emotion that allows any viewer to understand the level of pain a crime like the ones shown and talked about in the film brings about to the victims and their families.

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Cory Lambert Is a Character We Can Empathize With
The climax of the film shows Renner’s ability to portray Lambert swallowing the emotion of the moment to do what needs to be done, all while fully understanding the gravity of a tough situation. After a shootout with the perpetrator and his fellow private security contractors, Lambert tends to a wounded Banner’s side. Banner gives Lambert her blessing in tracking and taking the murderer’s life. Lambert turns his head downward and his eyes follow. A brief slow scene allows the audience to see that Lambert isn’t taking joy in apprehending and killing the man, but rather taking a moment to grasp what he’s about to do. Sharp writing helps here, but Renner elevates Lambert to a man that understands what frontier justice means not only for him but for the family of the victim who all but gave up on seeing true justice done.

Towards the end of the film, Renner’s character stops by to tell Natalie’s father that he had killed her attacker. In the silence of Natalie’s bedroom, Lambert pulls a blanket over her sleeping mother. He walks over to view a few photographs of her and spies one of her and Lambert’s daughter together. He removes his hat, as the neutral mouth downturns to a sullen frown. Lambert’s eyes well up, and he takes a deep breath. Another powerfully written scene is made more impactful by what Renner is able to do with it. The respect he is showing for the victims and the emotions that the audience can see push through in his eyes, when no one else is watching, allow us to understand the nature of a man like Lambert as well as the nature of experiencing tough emotions ourselves.

There are many other examples from Wind River that can be used to illustrate the riveting performance by Jeremy Renner, however, the best evidence for it would be watching the movie for yourself. Others might argue that other films such as The Hurt Locker or The Town, but the reality is, in terms of balancing emotion and action, they pale in comparison. As entertaining as his role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is, it wasn’t until Wind River that the excitement to see Jeremy Renner in new and different roles achieved its fever pitch. Hopefully, that fever is broken in the near future.

Disclaimer: This story is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by filmibee.
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