Saturday 8 October 2022

Movie Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead (2021)

A chase thriller, Those Who Wish Me Dead is a messy combination of fire-devouring-the-land and unstoppable-killers-on-the-loose.

In Montana, firefighter Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie) is still traumatized by deaths she could not prevent while leading a crew fighting a forest blaze. She is now assigned a fire monitor position atop an isolated tower in the woods. Hannah remains on good terms with her ex-boyfriend and local law officer Ethan (Jon Bernthal), whose pregnant wife Allison (Medina Senghore) runs a survival school.

Meanwhile assassin duo Jack and Patrick (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult) are hunting forensic accountant Owen Casserly (Jake Weber) and his young son Connor (Finn Little), to retrieve incriminating evidence. With the killers closing in, Connor stumbles upon Hannah deep in the forest. She must keep the boy safe while a massive fire closes in.

Directed and co-written by Taylor Sheridan, Those Who Wish Me Dead unfortunately flash fries all essential elements. The forensic files and scribbled notes triggering large scale mayhem are a barely explained MacGuffin, and Hannah's psychological damage is of the stock variety. Sheridan also spends a lot of time with bad guys and killers-for-hire Jack and Patrick, hinting at a willingness to explore them as people, but never actually gets there.

Instead the film features the expected impressive wall-of-fire visuals, and plenty of stunt performers falling, jumping, driving, crashing, and scuffling their way through routine narrow escape scenes. A lightning storm obstacle course is thrown in just for the sake of more special effects.

A few moments of tender reflection relieve the tedium. Jon Bernthal and Medina Senghore generate a sturdy bond as a couple adept at navigating the rigours of the wilderness. And young Finn Little is excellent as the boy Connor, gradually easing his way towards the drama's centre, and sharing the best scene with Jolie as they seek shelter from the fire in a small creek.

Despite the occasional spark, Those Who Wish Me Dead is more smoke than fire.

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