Angelina Jolie battles assassins, forest fires in 'Those Who Wish Me Dead'

  • A firefighter (Angelina Jolie), right, fights to save a boy (Finn Little) hunted by killers in "Those Who Wish Me Dead."

    A firefighter (Angelina Jolie), right, fights to save a boy (Finn Little) hunted by killers in "Those Who Wish Me Dead." Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

  • A firefighter (Angelina Jolie) fights to save a boy (Finn Little) hunted by killers in "Those Who Wish Me Dead."

    A firefighter (Angelina Jolie) fights to save a boy (Finn Little) hunted by killers in "Those Who Wish Me Dead." Courtesy of Warner Bros. Entertainment

 
 
Posted5/13/2021 6:00 AM

"Those Who Wish Me Dead" -- ★ ★

It would be an understatement to say that Angelina Jolie is put through the wringer in writer-director Taylor Sheridan's new film "Those Who Wish Me Dead."

 

In just 100 minutes, she is beaten and bruised by nature, men and even some of her own choices -- like a crazy stunt involving a parachute and a pickup truck. Jolie has always thrown herself into physically demanding roles, but her Montana firefighter Hannah Farber may take the cake for most cuts and shiners sustained in 24 hours. This is a film in which she's running from hitmen, raging forest fires and past traumas. Apparently her face and body are the physical representation of that. Even so, it's always a pleasure to see her back on screen, which has become rarer and rarer lately.

"Those Who Wish Me Dead" was adapted from a novel about Connor, a 12-year-old boy on the run from a pair of assassins who killed his dad. Screenplay credits go to the author Michael Koryta, Charles Leavitt ("Blood Diamond") and Sheridan, who seems to be cornering the market on bleak and bloody Western thrillers. Sheridan wrote the screenplays for "Sicario," "Hell or High Water" and "Wind River," which he also directed.

This outing is not quite as grim as "Wind River" but it's still very much in that vein. And like his folksy-poetic dialogue or not, he knows how to keep a film moving and give his actors juicy moments to chew on. (It should be no surprise that he too cut his teeth acting). He's populated this film with solid talent including Jon Bernthal as a local sheriff, and Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult as the hitmen. Finn Little, who plays Connor, can turn on the waterworks and internalized trauma as effectively as Jolie.

The film is a little scant on key details -- the whole chase is set off by Connor's dad discovering some criminal conspiracy big enough to warrant blowing up the district attorney's home (yes, with the family inside). But because there was only one team sent to kill off the two people with knowledge of the conspiracy, Connor and his dad get a few days' head start to drive from their Florida home to Montana to seek help from his brother-in-law sheriff (Bernthal).

by signing up you agree to our terms of service
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Jolie's Hannah meanwhile has been relegated to tower duty after she failed to save three boys in the woods during a massive fire. It might be a bit of a stretch, but she sells it with her steely gaze and cool swagger. Then, she gets her chance to help another young boy when she spots Connor running through the woods.

"Those Who Wish Me Dead" doesn't hold up to much scrutiny. There are too many threads left dangling and characters left unexplored, including Hannah herself. We get to see her as one-of-the-boys at the beginning with as much ego as a test pilot and a few flashbacks to the tragedy that seems to define her, but otherwise she's an enigma. Some of the forest fires are also distractingly digital. And yet, it's an effective and watchable chase film that keeps you on the edge of your seat enough to make it worthwhile. And it's a great breakout role for Medina Senghore, who gets to play a kick butt survival expert who's also six months pregnant. It's just not a film you're going to be thinking much about five minutes after it ends.

• • •

Starring: Angelina Jolie, Jon Bernthal, Finn Little, Aidan Gillen, Nicholas Hoult, Medina Senghore

Directed by: Taylor Sheridan

Other: A Warner Bros. release. In theaters and on HBO Max Friday. Rated R for strong violence and language. 100 minutes

0 Comments
                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 
Article Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.