Time: 100 Minutes
Age Rating: Violence, cruelty, offensive language & content that may disturb
Angelina Jolie as Hannah
Finn Little as Connor
Nicholas Hoult as Patrick
Aidan Gillen as Jack
Jon Bernthal as Ethan
Medina Senghore as Allison
Jake Weber as Owen
Tyler Perry as Arthur
Director: Taylor Sheridan
Still reeling from the loss of three lives, Hannah (Angelina Jolie) is a smoke jumper who’s perched in a watchtower high above the Montana wilderness. She soon encounters Connor (Finn Little), a skittish boy who’s bloodied, traumatized and on the run in the remote forest. As Hannah tries to bring him to safety, she’s unaware of the real dangers to follow: two relentless killers hunting Connor, and a fiery blaze consuming everything in its path.
Those Who Wish Me Dead was one of my most anticipated movies of 2021. Not only did it have a great cast with Angelina Jolie, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen and Jon Bernthal, but it was coming from Taylor Sheridan, who’s last directing work was a great crime thriller called Wind River. So I was excited based off the premise and the talent involved. I will say it wasn’t quite like I hoped it would be but I still liked it.
I went into the movie as someone who liked Taylor Sheridan’s Wind River, so to those who like me were expecting something like that, Those Who Wish Me Dead is nothing like that. Not only did I find that it definitely doesn’t live up to his stronger works, but as I discovered within the first 10 minutes, it is more of a 90s throwback thriller. The plot itself is rather predictable but I was interested enough to watch throughout. However I will note that for whatever reason, I was more interested in the supporting characters than the stories of the two leads, and I don’t think that was supposed to be the case. There is some characterisation, especially with the two main leads, however for the most part it doesn’t really delve into the characters much. I also do like how it is unflinching with the relentlessness and brutality of the violence, quite familiar to some of Sheridan’s other works like Sicario and Wind River. By the end of the movie, you do notice that there are a lot of questions that are unanswered, and some aspects that aren’t explained the best. For example, the motivations of the hitmen chasing the main characters are murky at best, Tyler Perry appears in one scene as the person who hire the killers and that’s it. It would’ve benefited from being a bit longer, using that time to develop more of the characters and story, especially when you consider that the runtime is only 100 minutes long. The pacing is a bit iffy, not the strongest especially in the first act where it seems to be taking a while to get to the main event at the center of the plot. Not to mention that the first two acts spend time building to the 10 minute climax.
The cast are great, and they deliver good performances on their parts. Angelina Jolie is headlining the movie as the lead, as she indeed plays the lead character. Despite this, she doesn’t really get the screentime necessary to give her the depth that is needed. She does have a tragic backstory as a smokejumper with a trauma and we do see how this affects her, which makes her the only major character in this movie with an actual backstory. Even then, it still feels like her character needed more development. Nonetheless Jolie does play the role very well. Finn Little plays the child that Angelina Jolie is protecting over the course of the movie, and he actually does quite a good job in the role despite feeling like a plot device. The chemistry and dynamic between Little and Jolie is believable and works well enough. With that said, these two seemed to be sidelined, and aren’t given the proper development that they need. As I said earlier, the supporting players actually end up being more impressive than the leads. First of all are the two hitmen played by Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult. Their relentless nature to carry out this goal makes them unpredictable, and that unpredictability is definitely needed in this rather generic and familiar plot. Despite being stone cold killers and straightforward villains, they are pretty human as shown through the dialogue and solid performances, and I kind of wanted more screentime with them. There’s also Jon Bernthal and Medina Senghore as the local sheriff and his pregnant wife, who are meant to be background characters but actually stand out. Bernthal does get a good amount of screentime compared to some of his other supporting roles (i.e. less than 10 minutes), and Senghore is something of a scenestealer. Tyler Perry is good in his one scene however his appearance is so brief that you could almost miss him.
Taylor Sheridan’s direction wasn’t quite as impressive as his work on Wind River, but on a technical level it is still solid. The cinematography is gorgeous, with much of the film being shot against a stunning landscape. When a particular forest fire becomes present in the movie and affects the characters, it almost becomes a presence in itself, elevating the tension as the sight of fire just spreading through the trees being quite intimidating. The action is well put together and flows well, and as said earlier is brutal and unflinching. Brian Tyler’s score does a lot to elevate the intensity too, and fits perfectly with the rest of the movie.
Those Who Wish Me Dead was a bit of a disappointment to me, as someone who liked a lot of Taylor Sheridan’s past work (especially Wind River) and the cast involved. However I still enjoyed it. As a 90s action thriller throwback (albeit without the cheesy tone), it was entertaining enough, the cast were good in their parts, and it was directed reasonably well. If you’re interested in an okay thriller with great actors, then give it a watch but it’s not one that you’ll need to catch as soon as possible.