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USA 1991
Directed by
Errol Morris
111 minutes
Rated M

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

The Dark Wind

Errol Morris is best known for his carefully-crafted documentaries but very little of his distinctive style is apparent in this thriller about a young Navajo policeman (Lou Diamond Phillips) who witnesses a plane accident that is tied to drug smugglers and so becomes the target of corrupt federal agents.

It was the first of a proposed series of films based on Tony Hillerman's contemporary Navajo thrillers but which, as so often the case, did not eventuate. This is probably because The Dark Wind has a plotting intricacy that might have worked on the printed page but is quite baffling on screen. It is in this respect a kind of Maltese Falcon with Phillips’s Jimmy Chee discovering the interwoven threads that lead to the mystery being finally solved.

For someone renowned for the lucidity of his argument (The Thin Blue Line, 1988, is a masterful example) Morris fails to make it clear how the different elements go together and if the result holds one's attention it is more because one is trying to work out who is doing what to who than because the story is in itself compelling. Morris even falls back on the dreaded exposition from the hero at gunpoint in order to save the day at the film’s end.  

The performances are solid and the context of native American culture adds a dimension of intelligence to the film but this is not enough to make up for the deficiencies in coherence. With such a strong story The Dark Wind is a film that makes you wish had been better scripted.


DVD Extras: None

Available from: Madman




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