There are a handful of contemporary screenwriters that I have nothing but the highest admiration for. Taylor Sheridan is one of them as he has written some of the finest crime dramas of the past decade (Sicario, Hell or High Water) and directed one of my favorite films of that genre (Wind River is a modern masterpiece). Once again the man is stepping behind the camera with Those Who Wish Me Dead. And thanks to WB’s 2021 slate being sacrificed to boost HBO Max viewers I caught this one, so let’s dig in.
After a traumatic event during a previous fire, smokejumper Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie) is assigned to a fire outlook tower in Montana to help get her head back into the game. In the meantime a forensic accountant (Jake Weber) and his son Connor (Finn Little) are on the run as brothers/assassins (Aiden Gillen & Nichols Hoult) are sent to tie up some loose ends. Hannah and Connor must stay one step ahead of these assassins as a fire rages through the forest.
I am thankful that Sheridan is slowly working on honing his directing skills making smaller films. I was surprised to see Those Who Wish Me Dead’s budget was only a few million more than Wind River. In this day and age too many filmmakers have their indie hit and get scooped up for an entry in the Marvel or Star Wars franchise. Sheridan may be playing in familiar territory, but he is showing a stronger grasp on the visuals. It is frustrating that it always seems like one of the hardest things for CGI to duplicate is fire. This is one of those points where the film would’ve benefited from a few extra million tacked onto its budget.
I’ve always been an Angelina Jolie fan. She has been an actress who has never been afraid to dive into a role that is out of her wheelhouse (Case and point: Check out the vastly underrated Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow). She does a great job infusing Hannah with a damaged spirit in need of redemption. Finn Little is decent and is extremely lucky that the majority of the film he has Jolie as his scene partner. On the other side you can never go wrong casting Aiden Gillen as a villain. The guy can twirl a mustache and make his character instantly intimidating and hated. Hoult delivers playing his cards more with a bit of hidden depth. He’s a killer and obviously has no qualms about it, but there are moments Hoult infuses to make you wonder what if? I was also blown away by Medina Senghore. She has around a dozen credits, but I cannot wait to see more and after this she is going to be picking up tons of work. I am so
grateful Sheridan has apparently made it his mission to cast Jon Bernthal as goodhearted upstanding men.
Where the film comes up short is the runtime. Oddly enough this is one of the rare occasions where the film could have benefited from being longer. The first act gives excessive amounts of information dumps on the characters and simultaneously lays the groundwork for the story. Hannah’s back story is set up, the main conflict is set up, and we get things kicked into gear. I personally would’ve loved to have gotten an additional 20 minutes to give a little more. I know this might just be a personal thing, but there were too many good characters and we needed just a little more time with them.
While it doesn’t reach the amazing heights of Wind River I really enjoyed Those Who Wish Me Dead. It was nice little thriller that channeled some fun 90’s action vibes. Keep up the good work Sheridan!
Overall Score 3.5/5
The Shameless Plugs
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