One for the adrenaline junkies, Those Who Wish Me Dead combines daredevil firies and ruthless assassins.
The movie starts with a bang – literally and figuratively – setting up audience expectations. Two killers – Jack and Patrick Blackwell (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult) – posing as utility operators, deliver an unforgettable message to a district attorney in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Next thing we know, a father (Jake Weber) is preparing to take his son, Connor Casserly (Finn Little), to school when he hears the news and suddenly everything changes. It turns out that he is a forensic accountant who worked for the district attorney and uncovered dirty dealings. Now he – like the DA – has become a target. With those out to get him hot on his heels, he and his son hightail it out of there and go on a road trip to try to flee harm’s way. But there is no escape.
Separately a smokejumper, Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie) – a specialist firefighter who is used to jumping out of planes and scaling high towers – is reeling from the loss of three young lives she failed to save in a wildfire. She is in a world of pain and seems to take pleasure in adding to it. Faber ends up isolated in a watchtower high above the Montana wilderness, looking for outbreaks and keeping an eye out for lightning storms. Connor and Hannah’s lives intersect and suddenly they are on the run together.
I appreciated the tension and bravado throughout Those Who Wish Me Dead. The key cast fill their roles admirably. Jolie has done “kick butt action heroine” many times and is polished at it. Here she mixes it up with vulnerability and empathy. Finn comes across as a natural – smart and resolute. Bernthal is credible as the upstanding sheriff’s deputy, while Senghore has no troubling playing resourceful in the face of overwhelming odds. The actors playing the villains, too, stand comfortably in the shoes of a couple of professional mercenaries intent on getting the job done at any price. So the heroism in the film – the smokejumpers included – takes many forms.
Visually, the movie is stunning, Ben Richardson capturing the breathtaking natural landscape and the raging out of control wildfires. Best put, given that the conclusion is never in doubt, I got exactly what I wanted. A veil of fear hovers over proceedings. The first-rate soundscape by Brian Tyler adds to the dread.
Director Taylor Sheridan (Wind River) knows how best to exploit a taut script (with some pithy one-liners) and has done that. Sheridan was responsible for the screenplay alongside Michael Koryta (who wrote the book upon which the movie is based) and Charles Leavitt.
In summary, the rugged journey is one worth taking.
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Alex First is a Melbourne based journalist and communications specialist. He contributes to The Blurb on film and theatre.