‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’ Brings The Heat With Its Thrills and Drama – Review
Angelina Jolie is back on the big screen (or small screen depending on what options are available to you) in Those Who Wish Me Dead. Jolie leads a cast of familiar faces including Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen and newcomer Finn Little in a tale that is filled with high stakes and action that manages to pack an emotional punch.
Hannah Faber (Jolie) is a veteran smokejumper (a specially trained wildland firefighter who arrives at the site of the fires by parachute) who is dealing with regret and grief from a fire where she couldn’t save the lives of a group of children. To cope with everything, Hannah has become destructive. This earns her a spot in the forest’s fire watchtower alone for the foreseeable future. However, after a walk to a nearby creek introduces her to a wounded boy, Hannah’s priorities take a sudden shift.
Connor (Little) doesn’t know who to trust after his father, Owen (Jake Weber), is brutally murdered right before his eyes by two assassins, Jack and Patrick (Gillen and Hoult). All Connor knows is that he must find help, but is rightfully wary of everyone who is around him. When he stumbles upon Hannah by the creek, he tries to flee but she makes him aware that she’s his best chance at survival. The two embark upon a race against time with a set of assassins on their trail and a blazing fire as well.
Directed and written by Taylor Sheridan, Those Who Wish Me Dead is a thrilling story with many moving parts that work well. Jolie is formidable as Hannah and this role reminds us once again that Jolie is a true action star. This film reminded me of why I enjoy Jolie in action films so much, her commitment is unwavering. Not only that, but Little is a force to be reckoned with, matching Jolie step-for-step in the acting department. The two work well together as they develop the emotional core of the film, whilst being chased and hunted. It’s difficult to imagine any other actors in these roles. Kudos to both of them for adding such depth to this film with their performances.
Just as Hannah and Connor make a formidable duo, the film also has a few other pairs to create this compelling survival drama. Gillen and Hoult are quite the pair of menacing antagonists as their pursuit of Hannah and Connor drives the narrative forward. Much like the fires that Jolie’s Hannah faces, Jack and Patrick are relentless and dangerous. The pair leave no stone unturned and leave massive trails of destruction in their wake. It is eerie how well Gillen plays the villain roles (I am mildly concerned), but his performance is one of the best things about the film.
Another standout and truly a scene-stealer is Medina Senghore as Allison, the wife of local sheriff Ethan (Jon Bernthal). This duo rounds out the trifecta of pairings in Those Who Wish Me Dead as they bring a great deal of tenderness and passion to the narrative. Their chemistry is simply off the charts. However, Senghore commands attention with each scene she’s in and her character plays a major role in many of the film’s most integral moments. She should certainly be on everyone’s watchlist, and she should truly be cast in as many projects as possible.
The “race against the clock narrative” works well enough with clear stakes and likeable protagonists stuck in a precarious situation. The film will leave you feeling a lot of stress, and the emotional impact is undeniable. Especially, with a sympathetic heroine at the center that brings everything together. While we might not all be firefighters, many of us are likely to relate to Hannah’s regret and sadness. It is something that many of us have experienced and find a myriad of ways to try to quell the pain, sometimes even in self-destructive ways. But given time and purpose, we are put on a path to see our way out of the darkness and help not only ourselves but for others. Ultimately, this story emphasizes enduring hardship and each of our protagonists plays their part to fully realize this theme.
Those Who Wish Me Dead is more than just a heart-stopping thriller, it is a testament to the resiliency of people, even in the direst of circumstances.