“Wind River” is the kind of movie that brings the stuff of nightmares into sharp focus. Powerful, violent and often disturbing, this film has some grisly scenes right from the first few moments of the film. Suspense, drama, and forces of nature coalesce to make “Wind River” a film you’ll think about long after you leave the theater.

Picture this: a vast winter landscape in the mountains looks wild and inhospitable. It’s the kind of wilderness where hunters bundled in parkas go out to hunt bears and big cats. The wind sweeps across the vistas and stirs the tops of tall pines. It’s eerily quiet when suddenly an intruder explodes into this desolate, cold setting.

A beautiful girl trudges as fast as she can in hip-deep snow up the mountainside. She’s  obviously scared to death. Something or someone is after her. She’s vulnerable and unprotected, wearing jeans and a light shirt. She wears no coat. No hat. No shoes. Suddenly, she collapses. Blood pools around her mouth. Bruises have formed on her arms, and her fingers and toes show signs of terrible frostbite. Her name is Natalie Hanson (Kelsey Asbille), and she’s an 18-year old Native American.

When Cory Lambert (Jeremy Renner) comes upon the scene, he alerts authorities at the reservation, and the Indian Tribal Police will be called upon to unravel the mystery of her death.

Tribal Police officer Ben (Graham Greene) calls in the FBI. When Agent Jane Banner (Elizabeth Olsen) arrives from Las Vegas in a suit and high heels, she looks like an unlikely candidate to solve the gruesome case. Within hours, however, Banner has borrowed all the appropriate gear and enlisted Lambert to help her.

Lambert’s expert tracking skills, and the fact that he discovered Hanson’s body, makes him an invaluable resource for the FBI, but he’s somewhat erasable and unorthodox in his methods.

Banner immediately has problems with the local medical examiner who, in spite of the fact that Hanson’s been gang raped, fails to list her cause of death as a homicide. Exposure contributes to the lungs collapsing; technically, this was a death by natural causes. Banner’s FBI demeanor kicks in to fight and seek justice for the young victim.

It’s not long before the “whodunit” reveals the murderers, and their actions are more sordid than anybody imagined. The body count mounts, a bereaved family will find some solace, justice will be served, and a sad truth revealed: no statistics are kept to track the number of Native American women on reservations who go missing.

No one attempts to explain why.

Rated R for strong violence, a rape, disturbing images, and languages.

Marilyn Robitaille has been writing film reviews since 1999.