Those Who Wish Me Dead is a modern-day western from acclaimed Writer, Director and Producer Taylor Sheridan, whose previous directing credits include Wind River. The film features a strong comeback from Angelina Jolie, proving yet again, that she still a force to be reckoned with.
The film opens with Jolie’s character Hannah Faber, a smokejumper (wildland fire-fighter) who, is suffering from trauma after a previous rescue attempt went wrong and resulted with the deaths of three young campers and a fellow smokejumper.
We then see Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) and Jack (Aidan Gillen) who are passing themselves off as working for the local gas and fire authorities. They are paying a visit to a house where a district attorney, his wife and baby live. The wife answers and the two explain that they are checking on a gas leak before asking permission to enter. We then see them leaving the house and realise that Patrick and Jack are stone-cold assassins and are now on their way to their next targets, Owen Casserly, a forensic accountant and his son Connor. Owen, having seen the murders on the news, takes Connor and tries to drive to his brother-in-law Ethan (Jon Bernthal) in Montana.
Meanwhile Hannah, also based in Montana, has now been posted to a fire lookout tower. While on duty Hannah spots Connor running through the forest. Connor has just escaped an ambush where his father was murdered and has given Connor a list that can only be disclosed to the media. Once Hannah gains Connor’s trust, the pair have to use their wits to hide form the killers while avoiding a newly-developed forest fire.
Those Who Wish Me Dead is a throwback to action thrillers from the 90s such as Stallone’s Cliffhanger and shares a resemblance with the the 1998 DTV film Firestorm with Howie Long. I have a huge soft spot for this genre and having a top-notch cast only adds to the suspense. The full plot is never revealed, for example we never know why exactly the hitmen have to kill their targets nor do we find out why the killers are also under pressure from the intimidating mob boss Arthur (played by Tyler Perry in a cameo). What is clear is that the mystery of the off-screen crime and of a list that Owen gives his Connor, is intended to not to be revealed to the audience. I presume this is so that we can hope that Connor makes it to give his dad’s list to the media, as instructed by his father as his final words.
Angelina Jolie is fantastic as Hannah, a thrill-seeking smokejumper who in her spare time, hides her pain by drinking and taking on dares by her, rough but loyal colleagues. It is easy to imagine that first choices for the lead may have been Jason Momoa or perhaps Dwayne Johnson. However Angelina makes the role her own as the pretty and reckless Hannah, as she finds a chance at redeeming herself. Through Jolie’s acting we get to see that although she is tough and fearless, she still vulnerable from the killers in pursuit in the wilderness. A special mention also needs to go to Nicholas Hoult and Aidan Gillen. Hoult especially who started off as a child-actor in films such as About A Boy and has since been throwing himself in roles with range and gaining much acclaim as an actor. We get to see a chilling side, previously unseen and also look forward to more from him. Gillen is no stranger to action genre, previously appearing as a cop killer in Blitz with Jason Statham. Here we see him turn up his stone-cold, killer charm.
If fast paced thrillers with beautiful scenery and a 90 minute running time are for you, then this is worth a watch.