Those Who Wish Me Dead is an action film by Taylor Sheridan and stars a cast of beloved actors. At the heart of the story is Hannah (Angelina Jolie), a smoke jumper relegated to a watchtower in Montana due to failing a mental health checkup. When Hannah encounters a young boy, Connor (Finn Little), in the woods and on the run, it’s up to Hannah to protect him from a pair of hitmen who want him dead.
Star power isn’t lacking here. The cast includes Jon Bernthal (The Walking Dead, The Punisher) as Ethan a current sheriff and former love interest of Hannah, Nicholas Hoult (X-Men: Apocalypse, Warm Bodies) and Aiden Gillen (Game of Thrones) as Patrick and Jack respectively, two assassins for hire tasked with tracking Connor down. The film would’ve been better, however, with more action and not quite so long a buildup.
Yet it’s hard to complain, because it does give us interesting characters and the story, ultimately, is as absorbing as the fire. Perhaps even more so. The acting is good—Angelina Jolie’s and Finn Little’s especially. The relationship between each pair of character’s is unique and none feel contrived. Hannah and Connor are touching in their shared experience with pain and trauma. Moreover, the story moves past this showing a legitimate bond and humor as they try to do tongue twisters on the way to get help.
Ethan is both a strong, caring, selfless married man who is funny without effort. Jon Bernthal is always stellar in these kinds of roles. Ethan and his wife, Allison (Medina Senghore), have tender and relaxed relationship. It makes viewers yearn to be near them to soak it up.
Even the pairing of killers Patrick and Jack is dryly comical. Jack is the cold and crafty senior assassin hunting Connor down alongside skilled, obedient junior assassin Patrick. Thanks to budget cuts, they are a pair of beleaguered assassins bearing the brunt of killing alone.
When these personalities faceoff, the payoff is wonderful.
Less Action Than Expected
The film trailer’s biggest point was Jolie squaring off with a destructive forest fire and baddies amidst the fire. There are fictional films where the antagonist or “big bad” is fire. Here the two large threats are the killer duo and the fire which does ratchet up the stakes. Yet the fire is an afterthought, the crescendo. Those Who Wish Me Dead would be better if the threat of the fire entered earlier instead of a looming threat through most of the film.
Still there is action to be had and some were not hinted at in the trailer so they were unexpected surprises. The direction is good. Camera angles make many sequences tighter and ratchets up tension where it needs to be. There are also scenes that felt pointless, such as when Connor and his dad Owen (Jake Weber; Dawn Of The Dead) have a brief pit spot. But there are few scenes in Those Who Wish Me Dead that feel unnecessary. The film took care not to just make the film about the action but give audiences an opportunity to feel invested in the characters.
Those Who Wish Me Dead is entertaining and surprising. The bad guys are as ruthless and devoid of sympathy as the fire speeding through the forest. The breadth of the forest is imposing and the characters are appealing and genuine. Overall it is a solid movie; it just doesn’t rise above solid. But if you’re a fan of the actors involved, it’s definitely worth watching.