Those Who wish me dead (2021)
An engaging Western action thriller
After Conner witnesses the murder of his father, he escapes to the wilderness of Montana to avoid being killed. Carrying his father’s secrets, the boy must find someone he can trust to help him get to the media. Hannah, a smokejumper, finds Conner and gains his trust. Suffering with her own recent tragedies, she has guide Conner safely through a forest fire and away from the killers. Those Who Wish Me Dead can best described as a modern Western action thriller (see my reviews of Write it in Blood and Pulp for more of this genre).
Agenlina Jolie has the look of Hollywood royalty, so it was hard for me to picture her fighting forest fires in Montana. But the truth is that, despite her glamorous image, Jolie always seems to give it her all on set. And Those who wish me dead is no exception to the rule for her. When she’s mingling with the other smokejumpers at the start of the movie, it was a hard sell for me. But by the end of the movie, she had me convinced.
What I liked
The cast is really good in Those Who Wish Me Dead. As I mentioned before, Angelina Jolie does a solid job here. Her main co-star, Finn Little, also does a really good job as Conner. I’m never excited to have to sit through child acting but Little holds his own alongside Jolie. In fact, much like their characters, it felt like Jolie was gently guiding Little’s acting and giving him space to shine.
Jon Bernthal, Nicholas Hoult and Medina Senghore also give standout performances. Senghore in particular shines in the role of Allison. In a strange and unexpected filmmaking decision, the most memorable and physical action sequence was given to Senhore’s very pregnant Allison. The stakes felt higher with her condition and her survival skills stood out as a result.
What I didn’t like
The first act of Those Who Wish Me Dead tries its very best to establish Hannah as one of the guys. Despite her best efforts, Jolie’s performance never quite fits in with the rest of the smokejumpers. She doesn’t quite gel in the group setting and definitely stands out. It’s not until she’s on her own that Jolie’s acting shines. But getting through that first act requires the audience to apply a fair amount of ‘just go with it’. The ideal solution would have been for Jolie to change her look. Maybe she could have cut her hair or put on some weight or have been given a huge scar or something. Her iconic Hollywood image was actually a detriment to the first third of the movie.
Those Who Wish Me Dead is an entertaining action thriller. Despite moments that feel unrealistic or unbelievable, the movie never stops being engaging. The characters are genuinely interesting and the plot keeps moving. The movie is also a great watch if you’re stuck inside during the pandemic. The filming locations (in New Mexico) were effective in relaying the expansiveness of the Montana wilderness.
Source: Warner Bros. Pictures (2021)