There’s no question Angelina Jolie is striking and her looks have been part of her acting toolbox for a while now. Films like Maleficent, Mr. and Mrs. Smith and By the Sea have coasted on her otherworldly beauty and larger than life persona. In fact, we’re about to see her play an immortal being in Eternals.
This is why whenever we see Angelina playing a normal person it feels so jarring. It’s the challenge Those Who Wish Me Dead has to overcome early on. Jolie plays a smoke-jumper—‘one of the guys’—who has been sidelined following a traumatic event that left casualties and an indelible mark on her psyche.
Stuck in an fire lookout tower in the middle of a forest, she is in a collision course with two assassins (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult) hunting a kid who saw them murdering his father. The boy is in possession of information that could send very important people straight to jail, including a very sinister Tyler Perry in the most random bit of casting of the year.
While this cat-and-mouse setup is hardly new, it’s well executed. As you would imagine, fire becomes a factor midway through the film. Also, the killers are cold-blooded and competent, which ups the ante.
Better known for his gritty scripts (Sicario, Hell or High Water, Wind River), director Taylor Sheridan keeps moral compromise at bay for once. The villains are irredeemable and the heroes are squeaky clean (trauma notwithstanding). Powered by a strong cast (add Jon Bernthal to the bunch) and gripping action set pieces, Those Who Wish Me Dead is an entertaining, fast paced romp in the vein of Cliffhanger. And there are not enough of those.
A few words about Aidan Gillen. The Irish actor is incredibly good at providing his ruthless characters with some shades of grey (see Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish in Game of Thrones). In Those Who Wish Me Dead, whenever not effectively dispatching witnesses, he spends his time complaining about the bureaucratic decisions that made his task more difficult than needed to be. This is the most relatable aspect of this whole movie. Three prairie dogs (out of five).
Those Who Wish Me Dead is now playing in SK theatres and available in VOD.