Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead 2021
Director: Taylor Sheridan
Since penning Denis Villeneuve’s drug cartel thriller Sicario , Taylor Sheridan has established himself as Hollywood’s go-to purveyor of world weary neo-Westerns. He earned an Academy Award nomination for his screenplay of Hell or High Water , wrote and directed the Indian reservation murder mystery Wind River , and most recently adapted Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse for star Michael B. Jordan.
Those Who Wish Me Dead, which Michael Koryta adapts from his own novel for Sheridan to direct, is yet another tale of rugged heroes, resilient women and ruthless villains, whose petty dramas play out against the unforgiving backdrop of America’s implacable great outdoors.
Angelina Jolie stars as an emotionally scarred Montanan smokejumper, and joins the ranks of Emily Blunt (Sicario) and Elizabeth Olsen (Wind River) as a no-nonsense heroine tossed into a maelstrom of testosterone-soaked violence, only to see their squabbles subsumed by more elemental threats.
Reeling from a recent tragedy she was unable to prevent, Hannah (Jolie) is transferred to a remote lookout tower deep in the forests of Montana, far away from the rowdy camaraderie of her all-male team of specialist firefighters. There she crosses paths with Connor (Finn Little), a desperate teen on the run from a pair of vicious hitmen who murdered his father minutes earlier. Connor needs a guardian, while Hannah needs to atone for the young souls she failed to save.
Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult play the formidable assassins, hired to tie up loose ends after Connor’s father unearths high-level government corruption, with chilling detachment. In an effort to distract local law enforcement from their quickly escalating body count, they spark a raging forest fire, which threatens to engulf the entire community before the night is out.
It’s been more than a decade since the star of Salt and Wanted fronted an action thriller, but Jolie is in excellent form as the loose cannon with nothing to live for. Her supporting cast includes Sheridan favourite Jon Bernthal as a sympathetic local deputy and Hannah’s former lover, who is unwittingly drawn into the struggle together with Allison (Medina Senghore), his heavily pregnant wife.
As was true of the lawless US/Mexico borderlands, vast Texas prairies, and snowy Wyoming tundra of Sheridan’s previous efforts, Montana’s spectacular wilderness is every bit the star here, especially during the terrifying forest fire sequences.
As a result, Those Who Wish Me Dead resonates as an exclamation from Mother Nature herself as readily as a cry for help from the film’s young hero, and one suspects Sheridan would happily side with the planet over those rampaging across its surface.