Saturday 15 May 2021

Those Who Wish Me Dead (Movie Review)

Taylor Sheridan returns to the director's chair for Those Who Wish Me Dead. The actor had risen to prominence as a screenwriter after penning the scripts for both Sicario and Hell or High Water, the latter of which had scored him a nomination for Best Original Screenplay at the Academy Awards. For his latest film, he once again channels his love for stories set in the modern-day American frontier, and he has recruited one of Hollywood's biggest A-listers to help bring it to life.

The film stars Angelina Jolie as Hannah Faber, a former smokejumper suffering from PTSD. She has been relegated to manning a lookout tower for forest fires, and there she struggles to come to grips with the tragedy that took place there one year ago. But her time of reflection is cut short when she stumbles across a distraught young boy (Finn Little) who was clearly on the run.

She learns that he was being hunted by a pair of assassins, who were trying to prevent him and his father from releasing some incriminating evidence against their employer (Tyler Perry). And to keep the authorities distracted while they hunt down their prey, the pair start a forest fire that quickly spirals out of control. Now Hannah must do everything she can to get the boy to the safety of the nearest town 12 miles away.

After spending the last couple of years taking on more dramatic roles, Those Who Wish Me Dead marks Angelina Jolie's return to action thriller fare. She had risen to fame with roles in films like Gone in 60 Seconds and Tomb Raider, the latter of which had helped cement her position as one of the few bona fide female action stars in Hollywood. So it is a much-welcomed return for many of her long-time fans. And she proved more than capable in the role, bringing the kind of physicality one would expect from such a film.

I also enjoyed seeing Nicholas Hoult in yet another villainous role. But unlike his very quotable turn as Nux in the brilliant Mad Max: Fury Road, the actor doesn't get much to work with here. He was supposed to be this conflicted killer, duty-bound by his mission, but his character merely came across as one-dimensional. The same thing could be said about Aidan Gillen, who plays his dad. And John Bernthal rounds out what could be considered an okay ensemble.

So the performances range from great to just okay. But how about the story you ask? Well, given the premise of the movie, the story was about as good as could be expected, which is my way of saying it was serviceable. The one area I had an issue with was in its unrealistic depictions of forces of nature like lightning storms. This was especially glaring during the climax, when the film turns into a full-blown disaster movie. I'm not quite sure how much of what was shown is based on real-world science, but I suspect that some suspension of disbelief will be required from most viewers. 

Those Who Wish Me Dead is an action thriller/disaster film hybrid with a strong emotional core. It is also a throwback to the cheesy natural disaster movies you most likely loved as a kid. I'm talking about films like Hard Rain that feature otherwise conventional plots. But this one has the added benefit of being anchored by a strong performance by Angelina Jolie, and a fairly brisk runtime that keeps things moving along at a steady pace.

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