Those Who Wish Me Dead: Film Review

Those Who Wish Me Dead

I haven’t seen Angelina Jolie doing some acting for ages so I was thrilled to see her back on my screen in Those Who Wish Me Dead and thankfully, the film itself is pretty great too.

Jolie stars as Hannah Faber, a troubled smokejumper who recently failed a psych evaluation and has been taken out of action and sent to a fire lookout tower in the remote forest in Montana. One day she comes across a young boy named Connor (Finn Little), who hid behind a tree and witnessed his accountant father get murdered by two assassins, Jack (Aidan Gillen) and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult), before escaping into the forest. The assassins soon realise Connor is still alive and is potentially privy to the information his father was killed for so they set off in hot pursuit. Hannah helps protect the boy from the assassins and the massive wildfire they deliberately start.

Those Who Wish Me Dead is a straightforward and traditional thriller that feels plucked straight out of the ’90s. This type of mid-budget thriller hardly ever gets made anymore or ends up on a streaming service rather than in the cinema, which seems to have become all about blockbusters or indies, nothing in-between. But this old-fashioned film serves as a reminder that these movies are good, there is still interest in them, and more should be made. Let’s bring them back!

Taylor Sheridan, who co-wrote the script with Michael Koryta and Charles Leavitt, has set the bar high with his previous writing credits on Hell or High Water and Sicario and this doesn’t quite match the standard of those but his direction is solid, the pacing is spot-on, and I enjoyed how the thriller played out, although I would’ve liked more details about the damaging information the accountant was killed for knowing.

I was a big fan of Jolie’s work back in her prolific acting days and she shines up on the screen as Hannah, who is one of the boys and uses jokes and banter to cover up her troubles. The role is both emotionally and physically demanding – Hannah needs to be in incredible shape for her job – and Jolie aced the character on both fronts. I don’t have any issues with her acting but she’s too gorgeous to be convincing as this rough and ready person and has too much make-up on in the later scenes when she’s covered in blood, mud and bruises.

Jon Bernthal was a strong addition as the area’s sheriff Ethan, Gillan always makes for a menacing antagonist and that’s no different here, while Hoult doesn’t bring much of that to the table. I didn’t find him at all threatening and knew that Hannah could easily sort him out. But they are all outshone by relative newcomers Little and Medina Senghore (as Ethan’s pregnant wife Allison) – Little does brilliant emotional work for such a young actor and Senghore has the most unexpectedly kickass role in the movie. A very pleasant surprise!

Those Who Wish Me Dead is thrilling, gripping, and tells a compelling story with an intriguing set of characters. I highly recommend it.

Side note: If you’re interested in seeing more about smokejumpers then you should watch Only the Brave (bring tissues!)

In cinemas now

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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