Those Who Wish Me Dead

 

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Angelina Jolie combats forest fires and two relentless hitmen in a genuinely cinematic

action-thriller.


Those Who Wish Me Dead

Finn Little and Angelina Jolie

  

Those who wish Connor dead are not your typical screen villains. Jack and Patrick Blackwell are business-like, matter-of-fact and highly efficient at what they do. There’s little that escapes their attention and attentive bystanders prove immediately dispensable. And unlike most movie-ready hitmen, they are not above complaining about their budgetary constraints.

 

One of a handful of new feature films to herald the opening of cinemas in England, Scotland and Wales, Those Who Wish Me Dead certainly has the cinematic edge. Set against the wooded, mountainous backdrop of Montana, it is a panoramic feast for the eyes. It is in this wilderness that Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie), the world’s most beautiful fire fighter, puts her own life on the line to combat increasingly treacherous infernos sweeping America’s forests. Only a year ago she saw three boys burn to death and is not about to let anybody else perish on her watch. Meanwhile, two men claiming to work for the gas board enter a suburban residence in Fort Lauderdale. Minutes after the leave, the family home is blown to smithereens. On the big screen, it is a jarring spectacle.

 

Quite how the paths of Hannah Faber and Connor Casserly cross is part of the fun of this proficient adaptation of Michael Koryta's 2014 novel. It is a jolt to see Angelina Jolie playing a real character again, six years after her critically-derided By the Sea – and it’s a challenge that the screenplay largely succeeds in overcoming. Jolie has become such an icon in her lifetime, that it is hard to separate her public persona from the roles she plays. However, under the direction of Taylor Sheridan, she – and we – are in good hands. Sheridan’s first two films as scriptwriter, Sicario and Hell or High Water, were nominated for top awards, the latter securing him an Oscar nod. His first film at the helm, Wind River, won him the best director prize at Cannes and was, indeed, an atmospheric piece, albeit a little short on story. Here, Sheridan has more than enough narrative strands to go round and has been handed some muscular ingredients – a young boy on the run, a woman with a personal score to settle and an imminent environmental catastrophe. And Sheridan, with his co-scenarists Koryta and Charles Leavitt, has toughened up the ante with creditable dialogue and a tight directorial hand. When Hannah and Connor do, inevitably, meet, she looks at him and mutters, “it’s impossible to feel sorry for myself around you.” There are good performances, too, from Jon Bernthal and Boots Southerland as local sheriffs, Medina Senghore as the former’s pregnant wife and the 13-year-old Australian actor Finn Little as Connor. As the resolute, resourceful hitmen on the boy’s trail, Nicholas Hoult and Aidan Gillen blend in subtly with the other American accents. It’s an intriguing choice for Hoult, off the back of his outrageous turn as Peter III of Russia in TV’s The Great, but it definitely highlights his versatility.

 

And Sheridan, who has cornered the market in knotty, gritty Americana, brings an authentic voice to this generic tale of men of impossible evil and the heroes who lay down their lives to help others. As an action thriller, it is certainly action-packed and genuinely thrilling – with a little bit extra on the side. In her next film, Angelina Jolie is back in the world of fantasy, playing the immortal warrior Thena in Marvel’s Eternals. But with none other than Chloé Zhao behind the camera, this could be another special outing for the actress.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Jake Weber, Medina Senghore, Jon Bernthal, Tyler Perry, Boots Southerland, Tory Kittles, Lora Martinez-Cunningham.

 

Dir Taylor Sheridan, Pro Steven Zaillian, Garrett Basch, Aaron L. Gilbert, Kevin Turen and Taylor Sheridan, Ex Pro Steven Thibault, Ashley Levinson, Andria Spring, Jason Cloth, Richard McConnell, Kathryn Dean, Michael Friedman, Daria Cercek and Celia Khong Screenplay Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt and Taylor Sheridan, from the novel by Michael Koryta, Ph Ben Richardson, Pro Des Neil Spisak, Ed Chad Galster, Music Brian Tyler, Costumes Kari Perkins, Sound Tom Ozanich.

 

New Line Cinema/Bron Studios/Film Rites/Creative Wealth Media/Bosque Ranch Productions-Warner Bros.

100 mins. USA/Canada. 2021. Rel: 17 May 2021. Cert. 15.