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THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD gets 6/10 Smokey the bearable


Directed by Taylor Sheridan
Starring Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Aidan Gillen, Jon Bernthal

6/10

A best-selling neo western novel, with screenplay and direction by the writer of Sicario, and starring Angelina Jolie, expectations are high. Will Those Who Wish Me Dead deliver, or snap under the weight of expectations?

Smokejumper Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie) is on lighter duties while recovering from a traumatic incident where a misstep cost the lives of multiple people. Manning an observation tower, she struggles with trauma and guilt, but that contemplation is interrupted when she encounters a young boy (Finn Little) in the woods, covered in blood. She finds herself struggling against hitmen (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult) and an oncoming fire, in an effort to save the boy and herself.

Those Who Wish Me Dead has so much build up, but so little pay off. For such a simple plot, this film dedicates a lot of its run time to set up, moving its individual pieces towards confrontation for a good third of its screen time, before getting to the point. None of this character development ultimately seems worth the effort, because it rarely, if ever, is called upon in the final confrontation, instead leaving the characters’ fate to random chance.

It’s tempting to see that this could be the point of the film, such as Aiden Gillen’s professional hitman’s plans continually spiralling out of control due to pure misfortune and budget constraints, but it really isn’t. Those Who Wish Us Dead is a movie sold to us by Ikea. The plot threads are obviously there, the audience just needs to construct them by themselves with a little headcanon. It’s just a script that doesn’t hold together narratively or thematically. Yeah, we get it; family, sacrifice, and the vast uncaring capriciousness of the American landscape – but you need to weave these themes cohesively together, not just show us a diagram and an allen key.

Jolie is probably the worst served by this, being front and centre as a traumatised smokejumper. Despite the emotive flashbacks and reckless drunken behaviour, she never really comes across as an “on the edge badass” with a skill set honed towards survival at all costs, but rather someone that is unlucky enough to get hit by lightning… twice…during the course of an hour and a half!

The minor characters fare a little better in this film. As stated previously Gillen (Game of Thrones) is a minor highlight, his paternal relationship with Nicholas Hoult (Mad Max: Fury Road) lends some nuance to the coldly efficient hitmen. Similarly Medina Senghore (Happy!) and Jake Webber (Dawn of the Dead) also make the most of small roles, but ultimately this is not an ensemble piece. The central focus is on the big star, and her story is just not strong enough to justify that.

Frustratingly Those Who Wish Us Dead is so close to being a good film. With a talented writer like Taylor Sheridan (Sicario, Hell or High Water) behind the camera, it should be, but just doesn’t make it across the line. Ill served by a script that leaves a lot of thematic threads untouched, it just ends up as rather boringly average fare.

DAVID O’CONNELL

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