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Film Review: “Those Who Wish Me Dead”

Written by: Victoria Alexander | May 22nd, 2021

Film Poster: THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD
Film poster: “Those Who Wish Me Dead”

It’s best seen at a movie theater.

It’s Angelina Jolie’s return to films, though she has not been absent from the media. Wisely, with her epic dis-entanglement from her spouse followed with rapt interest and expensive multiple lawyers, she chose a starring role as a non-glamorous, ordinary, experienced smoke jumper.

In director Taylor Sheridan’s adaptation of Michael Koryta’s 2014 novel, Those Who Wish Me Dead, Jolie plays Hannah Faber, a firefighter in Montana. Without a femme fatale nod and with a Target wardrobe, the guys working alongside Hannah respect her bravery instead of her sexual attractiveness.

Hannah is suffering with PSTD because of a past miscalculation that cost the lives of several children. Perhaps Luke 9:60 – “…let the dead bury the dead” would comfort her. 

Aren’t all of us descendants of soldiers who survived cultures of war? Our ancestors fought in European wars for centuries from Alexander the Great’s Macedonian army of 32,000 to 47,000 soldiers to Julius Caesar’s army to World War l veterans. Surviving hand-to-hand combat with only bravery, a sword and a javelin must have produced victors who lived with PSTD.

You think this is a fire-fighting movie but it starts off with father and son assassins, played by fan favorite GOT character Littlefinger, Aiden Gillen, and Nicholas Hoult. They demonstrate their craft by casually killing a couple with a baby and then blowing up their house.

As soon as forensic accountant, Owen (Jake Weber), sees this on the news, he knows he will be next. He takes his young son Connor (Finn Little) and without revealing anything about why they must run for their lives, calls his relative, Sheriff Ethan Sawyer (Jon Bernthal). So the killers know Owen is going from Florida to the Soda Butte Survival School in the Montana mountains. 

If you find something dangerously illegal by an outfit that has assassins on the payroll, better have a smart exit plan in place.

Arriving by plane, the killers lie in wait for Owen and Connor and cover their car in bullets. Without supplies, water or a weapon, Owen and Connor are easy prey for machine gun play. Luckily, Owen has given Connor a written note about the bad acts he has uncovered. If Owen dies, Connor is to give the list to a TV station. Escaping from the bullet-ridden car, Connor watches as his father is killed. The father-and-son assassins know the kid has seen them and now go hunting for him.

There is only one way for the killers to distract the police and media from coming to town. To complete their task Killer Dad starts a fire. He doesn’t leave a campfire burning. He sets off several flares that ignite a fast-moving ravaging fire. 

It’s a rather drastic measure but that is how high the stakes must be. And a kid loose on the run must be dealt with. 

Film Image: THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD
Film Image: THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD

Which brings us back to Hannah. Her former boyfriend, the aforementioned sheriff, informs us that she is not gay even though she works in a primarily male dominated job. It’s her turn to live in a fire tower cut off from all comforts. Sheriff Sawyer joins the search for the boy. Father and Son are surprised when they visit the sheriff’s home and finds Sawyer’s pregnant wife Allison (Medina Senghore) alone. You don’t live in Montana unless you can handle weapons, make a fire and fight off killers with a shotgun. Allison is not the kind of wife feeding chickens and making sourdough bread. She is a savvy survivalist.

It’s Hannah who finds Connor and soon she becomes his protector as she attempts to guide him to safety. And now all the principals come together to survive the fast moving fire and the determined assassins. They had been warned to eliminate the kid, or else.

Hannah’s relationship with Connor is at the center of the film and Jolie, without the hint of self-consciousness delivers a warm and embracing performance. It is the best pretense-free performance allowing her a sincere, down-to-earth role.

Angelina Jolie in Maleficent
Angelina Jolie in Maleficent

Angelina Jolie in Those Who Wish Me Dead
Angelina Jolie in Those Who Wish Me Dead
Demi Moore at the 2021 Fendi Spring couture catwalk
Demi Moore at the 2021 Fendi Spring couture catwalk

I would like to comment on Jolie’s transformational face. Or is it maturity? Is the Maleficent face the new trend? Now that Pamela Anderson’s pencil thin eyebrows are dated and the current rage of exaggerated buttocks and ultra-wide hips of female rappers are de rigueur, is the dynamic Maleficent face, as debuted by Demi Moore at the 2021 Fendi Spring couture catwalk, the new “must-have” face?

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Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society: www.lvfcs.org/. Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada, and answers every email at victoria.alexander.lv@gmail.com. For a complete list of Victoria Alexander's movie reviews on Rotten Tomatoes go to: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/critic/victoria-alexander/movies. Victoria Alexander contributes to Films in Review (http://www.filmsinreview.com), Film Festival Today (http://filmfestivaltoday.com) and Las Vegas Informer (LVInformer.com).

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