Ingrid Goes West

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Social Media Must Die.

* * * 1/2

Arriving with impeccable timing, as they world seems to be waking up to the idea that social media is causing tremendous problems throughout all levels of society – from handing Trump the presidency of the United States to causing mass distraction and anxiety among many of the world’s teenagers – Ingrid Goes West hits a very specific bullseye. As the father of a little girl who will, as surely as night follows day, have to deal with the madness of “likes”, “follows” and virtual relationships, I found the film rather terrifying and certainly urgent.

Not that it’s a horror movie by any stretch. Bathed in the naturalistic, sunny aesthetic of the modern American California Indie, with its gentle handheld camera, perfectly aligned pop soundtrack and über hip cast of Aubrey Plaza, Elizabeth Olsen, Wyatt Russell and O’Shea Jackson Jr., it looks like a comedy on the poster, but it’s a black comedy in the cinema, and one that earns the badge.

Plaza plays a grieving young East Coast woman who relies too much on her phone and social media; “going west” means heading to California to meet a social media contact (Olsen). Both are perfect in their roles. Olsen makes her subtly nuanced portrayal of a modern social media princess look effortless; if, like most of us, you’ve only seen Plaza in comedy, you’ll stand up and take notice of her drama chops here. Jackson Jr., Russell and, in particular, Billy Magnussen are all terrific as alternate versions of Very Californian Dudes.

How Ingrid Goes West affects you will almost certainly depend on your current relationship with social media. If you’ve already disabled your accounts and gone back to simpler ways of communicating, such as speech – or thrown away everything and started building a dwelling by hand somewhere – you’ll be able to scoff at the shenanigans of these tragic hipsters and more than likely find disdain for a movie about their plight. If, like me, you’re a parent of a young ‘un, I suspect the film will light even more fires under your ass and get you thinking of raising your precious spawn so that they can survive the coming horrors of the electronic playground. And if you’re at all like Ingrid – if you’re young and in love with your device and your online connections – I can only hope this alarm bell of a movie hits you like a freight train, if you can stop Instagramming long enough to watch it.

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WIND RIVER

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**** (out of five)

Taylor Sheridan is a damn good screenwriter. He wrote Sicario, Hell or High Water, and now Wind River, which he also directs. He wraps rich character studies in genre. All three feature guns, but they also feature human beings.

Here, a policeman in Wyoming who specialises in shooting wild animals to protect the herds on a Native American reservation teams up with a pretty young FBI case-worker to solve the mysterious, cold and lonely death of a young Native woman. Much of their work takes place on the reservation, in the snow (and often in a snow-storm).

What a milieu! We get snowmobiles as primary transport, the harsh weather as perhaps the most striking antagonist, a look inside life on a reservation, and, as a terrific by-product, a suite of some of the best Native American actors in the business, including Gil Birmingham (who was also in Hell or High Water, as Jeff Bridges’ partner), Apesanahkwat, Tantoo Cadinal and, of course, the great Graham Greene (who  is up to 146 credits on IMDB with five films in post-production). It’s an embarrassment of casting riches.

As the leads, both Elizabeth Olsen and Jeremy Renner are very good – Olsen, perhaps great. Renner gets the harsh backstory but Olsen, as the FBI agent – a pretty young woman in a very, very male domain – gets the moments. Her scene at the first location of interest to the pair – you’ll know it when you see it – is Jodie-Foster-in-Silence of the Lambs-good.

As with Sicario and Hell or High Water, Sheridan gives us the action set-pieces the genre demands – a couple of very, very good ones indeed – but his character work here feels just a touch more strained. Gil Birmingham’s character is superb and fully realised, but Renner is burdened with backstory that’s just a little too rich, convenient or both. Also – almost certainly due in no small part to the harsh conditions of the locations – the dialogue can often be extremely hard to decipher. This was the wrong movie, shot in the wrong conditions, to let your actors mumble, and Sheridan lets Renner mumble a lot. It’s a shame; these elements hold Wind River back from being right up there with the very best films of 2017.