Helmed by mixed Anishinaabe director April Mullen, ‘Wander’ is a psychological thriller of taut suspense. Set in the heartland of the Navajo Nation in New Mexico, the film pays homage to the director’s own indigenous roots. While the film clearly has some shortcomings, Aaron Eckhart and Tommy Lee Jones succeed to create a web of lies and intrigue. The story follows mentally unstable conspiracy theorist cum small-time snoop Arthur Bretnik as he falls into a rabbit hole while investigating a mysterious murder. He comes to know of a covert operation to assert power over the immigrants. Coming out of the volatile border control policy of the Trump era, the film seems to blend some reality into its beatnik plot, and if you are wondering whether the film is tethered to reality, we are about to engage in some snooping of our own. There are going to be a few spoilers, so tread with caution.
Is Wander Based on a True Story?
No, ‘Wander’ is not based on a true story. There is no known chip technology that can be implanted in the hearts of American immigrants to make them obey if that is what you are asking. The film is based upon an original screenplay written by Tim Doiron, and while the ambitious screenplay is by no means self-explanatory, it still packs more than a few punches to keep the audience hooked. The ambiguity of the story, along with the outlandish setting of “Middle of Nowhere,” attempts to create a forbidding and foreboding environment in the minds of the viewers, guiding them to the final exposé of truth.
Wander is also not a real town that exists in the middle of the vast deserted land of New Mexico. The name of the town, which in turn christens the film, seems to tell more about the state of mind of the drifting protagonist. As Shelley puts it in the film, Arthur is predisposed to stretching his investigations too far. In other words, he seems to “wander” from his cases into bizarre and unfeasible conspiracy theories. But complete fabrication, they are not. The film, as we are told, is filmed in the ancestral land of Pueblo, Navajo, and Apache people. The director divulged in an interview that she and her crew went through a land acknowledgment ceremony before beginning the on-site production, keeping with the director’s own indigenous lineage.
As the film begins, we are told through a title card that the film is dedicated to blacks and other people of color who have been subjected to displacement through border control on stolen land, and this is a reality hinging on Donald Trump’s wall policy. Known as the “Trump Wall” or simply “The Wall,” the project marks one of the most highlighted promises of the Trump administration. The proposed (and partially built) 30 to 50 feet high wall gives form to far-right xenophobia of the American south, and the film is an indictment against the disquieting border policy that attempts to separate the indigenous people from their lands.
It becomes evident by the end of the film, that Victor Canton, who has created the chip to govern the immigrants, belongs to an unnamed covert organization, along with Elsa and Arthur’s two-timing friend Jimmy. There has been a history of cults and covert organizations in America, and while most of the conspiracy claims regarding a “new world order” are fictional, two secret societies that match the description come up in our research: Know Nothing and the infamous Klu Klux Klan. Both of them posited populist, anti-immigration, and anti-Catholic ideologies, and they may rightly fit the description of the mysterious xenophobic organization shown in the film. However, the film gives the audience some visual cues to guide them towards the Illuminati, like the one scene where Shelley comes looking for Arthur and discovers his detective wall. We see the Eye of Providence, and that leads us to think that the Illuminati may be involved in the conspiracy cover-up. However, while the Illuminati most likely has its roots in myth rather than history, it would be a conspiracy theorist’s imperative to confirm with Beyoncé Knowles.
Read More: Wander Ending, Explained