“Those Who Wish Me Dead” stars Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Tyler Perry, Jake Weber, and Jon Bernthal. Released on May 14, 2021, the film is about a smokejumper who helps a young murder witness escape from two ruthless assassins.
The film was directed by Taylor Sheridan, who also directed “Vile” and “Wind River”. It is an adaptation of the novel of the same name by Michael Koryta. Do you think running away from an assassin was stressful? Try doing that while getting caught in the middle of a wilderness fire. That should really make you sweat buckets. This film marks the latest project in the Warner Brothers lineup to debut both in theaters and on HBO Max. It also sees Taylor Sheridan back in the director’s chair for the first time in four years after only writing screenplays for the “Sicario” sequel and last month’s “Without Remorse”. I remembered liking his previous film “Wind River” when it first came out. It was a slow-burn thriller, yes, but it was a well-made slow-burn thriller. I liked it well enough to check out Sheridan’s other recent works, especially this one, which has Angelina Jolie battling assassins and forest fires. Last weekend’s “Wrath of Man” was able to impress older fans of action thrillers, so let’s see if Sheridan’s latest directorial effort can do the same.
The story centers on Hannah Faber (Jolie), a smokejumper who works in a fire lookout tower in the middle of the Montana wilderness. She’s facing an internal struggle with herself after failing to prevent a forest fire that killed three young boys. One day, while on patrol, she encounters a young boy named Connor Casserly (Little). He’s on the run from two brothers/assassins, Jack (Gillen) and Patrick Blackwell (Hoult), who murdered his father, Owen (Weber). More importantly, Connor carries evidence against mob boss Arthur Phillip (Perry), the person responsible for hiring the Blackwell brothers. Now caught in the middle of this dangerous predicament, Hannah will have to protect Connor from the assassins while attempting to survive a forest fire that they set. Taylor Sheridan is usually known for helming films that took a more realistic and dialogue-driven approach in the thriller genre, whether he’s directing or writing or both. While “Those Who Wish Me Dead” is no different in terms of realism, the film is more or less a traditional thriller that’s as straightforward as any other action thriller from the 90s. It’s a bit far off from Sheridan’s usual sense of storytelling that features complex characters and dialogue-driven moments, which may disappoint some of his fans. However, if simplicity and traditional thrills are what you desire, you might get some enjoyment out of this one. I thought the film was okay, in my opinion. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t do anything different to subvert the genre, but that doesn’t make it less engaging. The cast was pretty decent in their roles, including Jolie as Hannah. The characters they played were undeniably average at best, with some of them making a couple of poor decisions throughout the film. However, I would say that it made an effort to make me care for Hannah a bit. As I mentioned earlier, Hannah is internally haunted by her mistake that resulted in the death of three boys. Her encounter with Connor, along with the forest fire, forced her to face the sin of her past. I thought Jolie did a suitable job at personifying her character, even though her character arc wasn’t as impactful as it could’ve been. Finn Little also did pretty well in his first film role as Connor, and Hoult and Gillen were both solid as Patrick and Jack, respectively. Tyler Perry is also in the film as the mob boss, but he only appeared in one scene. His character served as a behind-the-scenes antagonist that hired his goons to do the job for him and nothing else. While I appreciate Perry for taking on more roles outside of his Madea schtick, I feel his character was a wasted opportunity for him to showcase more of his talent. Sheridan never fails to provide stellar tension and some riveting wide-angle shots in his films, and “Those Who Wish Me Dead” is no exception. Despite the plot being somewhat cliched, the director managed to keep things consistently intense and focused, especially during the dialogue scenes. There was never a single moment that allowed me to take a breather, which is a surefire sign that he did something right.
Overall, “Those Who Wish Me Dead” delivered the expectations that it sets out to accomplish, but at the expense of potent storytelling. It’s a nicely directed thriller that contains attention-grabbing performances and thrilling sequences. Unfortunately, they weren’t enough to put out the raging fires of effortlessness that consume its intended sense of emotion. It’s worth checking out in theaters or on HBO Max if you’re in a mood for a straightforward action thriller. However, if you’re expecting it to be like Sheridan’s other films, you might not like the final result as much as you would have.