A smart-ass smoke jumper, a deputy who’s about to become a first-time dad, a traumatized boy, and two professional hitmen battle each other and a massive fire in the action thriller, Those Who Wish Me Dead. Oscar-winner Angelina Jolie stars as Hannah, an experienced, thrill-seeking smoke jumper (referenced above) who’s been demoted to minding a watchtower in the Montana wilderness. The reason behind the demotion turns out to be the cause of Hannah’s PTSD and involves a bad call made while fighting a gigantic forest fire. She blames herself for the devastating tragedy caused by the fire and suffers from survivor’s guilt.
Over in Florida, Owen (Jake Weber), a forensic account, and his son Connor (Finn Little) are forced to go on the run because Owen has evidence that could ruin powerful men, including some congressmen and governors. Hot on their trail are two cleaners – Jack (Aidan Gillen) and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) – sent to silence Owen before he can get to the press. The cleaners, through impressive detective work, are able to figure out Owen’s headed to Montana to hole up at the home of his brother-in-law, Ethan (Jon Bernthal), who happens to be a deputy.
It’s in the remote wilderness of Montana that the stories finally intersect after Hannah comes across a determined and terrified Connor. “My dad said if anything happened I should find someone I can trust. Are you someone I can trust?” asks Connor. Hannah, of course, answers yes. The two team up to try to get back to civilization and to safety while being pursued by the cleaners who ignite a massive fire to keep the authorities busy.
Reminiscent of ’90s action thrillers such as Twister and Cliffhanger, Those Who Wish Me Dead suffers from a weak, predictable script, characters who simply aren’t that interesting, and a lack of suspense.
Angelina Jolie delivers an adequate yet unimpressive performance as Hannah, a wise-cracking smoke jumper who used to love her job until tragedy struck due to her misreading of a fire. Hannah doubts herself and suffers from PTSD, making her leery of trusting her own judgment at crucial moments. Jolie overplays the quieter moments when Hannah’s alone in the watchtower and keeps reliving the terrible tragedy.
Jon Bernthal is solid as Ethan, an expectant father and dedicated deputy who ends up in way over his head trying to save Connor and Hannah from the two cleaners. Bernthal delivers the most authentic performance in the film.
Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult are well paired as Jack and Patrick, the two cleaners who it’s made clear early in the film often work together and are extremely efficient at their jobs. It’s a shame their characters weren’t each given a little more personality. The talents of these two highly versatile actors are pretty much wasted portraying one-dimensional killers.
With characters that don’t engage us, a script that lacks any real tension, and disappointing action sequences, Those Who Wish Me Dead is unsatisfying and forgettable.
MPAA Rating: R for strong violence and language throughout
Running Time: 1 hour 40 minutes
Release Date: May 14, 2021
Directed By: Taylor Sheridan