The following review was written by Ultimate Rabbit correspondent, Tony Farinella.
I remember being blown away when I walked out of the theater after watching Taylor Sheridan’s 2017 directorial debut in “Wind River,” which he also wrote. He’s an accomplished writer having written such films as “Sicario,” “Hell or High Water,” and also a number of episodes of “Yellowstone.” While “Those Who Wish Me Dead” is not as powerful and emotional of a film as “Wind River,” it still shows he has a great eye behind the camera and knows how to get powerful performances out of his actors. He also knows how to build suspense while also keeping a lean pace to his films. I look forward to what he has up his sleeve next as a writer and director.
Even though he shares the screenwriting credits with Michael Koryta (based on his book of the same name) and Charles Leavitt, his touches are still all over this film. With any thriller, you need to capture the attention of the audience right away. Sheridan does this by introducing us to Hannah, played brilliantly by Angelina Jolie. Jolie has always been an underrated actress, but here, she gets to show off her acting chops in an impressive and understated fashion. Hannah is still traumatized by the fact that in her role as a smoke-jumper, three young lives were lost. She feels completely responsible for it, even though there is always more to the story. Many nights, it is hard for her to fall asleep comfortably without horrible nightmares.
Hannah, however, gets a chance to redeem herself when she stumbles upon an injured and scared 12-year-old boy named Connor (Finn Little), who is all alone due to circumstances beyond his control. Together, they form an unlikely pairing where they must work together in order to stay alive, as Connor has some information which two very bad men are looking for, and they will stop at nothing to obtain from him. Even though Hannah has the training and the skills, it’s difficult when there is a tremendous fire heading their way at the same time. This is a film which starts off by allowing us to spend time with the characters, get to know them and care about them. It’s one of the reasons why it is so effective.
Finn Little and Jolie work so well together. At first, Connor wants nothing to do with Hannah and pushes her away. When he realizes it’s a 12-mile trek to get any help, he quickly realizes he has no choice. Even though there are horrible lighting storms going on and this intense chase, Sheridan takes time to allow the audience to have a laugh here and there along with some tender moments. There is also a side story involving Hannah’s ex, played perfectly by the always reliable Jon Bernthal. He still cares about Hannah and her well-being, but he’s also involved in a committed relationship and has a child on the way with Allison (Medina Senghore).
The bad guys are played by Nicholas Hoult and Aidan Gillen. They do a great job in portraying the villains without trying too hard to where they are over-the-top characters. It is more the threat of violence and their presence. Going back to the overall film, I’ve always enjoyed a thriller which knows how to have a good running time. This film runs at 100 minutes, and there is never a dull moment. It didn’t need to be any longer or any shorter, and it is fine exactly as it is thanks to the performances, the pacing and the action. They all work together so well.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with “Those Who Me Dead,” but it did remind me what a tremendous actress Jolie is and reinforced the fact that Sheridan is a director who is going to be making more thrilling action films in the future I look forward to watching. The stakes are high and, as an audience member, we feel that urgency. He’s also emotionally investing time in his characters, so we are happy to spend time with them. We are also rooting for them and care about their fate. This is one of the better films I’ve seen in 2021 so far.
* * * ½ out of * * * *
Blu-Ray Info: “Those Who Wish Me Dead” is released on a single disc Blu-ray from Warner Brothers Home Entertainment. It runs at 100 minutes and is rated R for strong violence and language throughout. It also comes with the digital copy as well.
Video Info: The film is presented in 1080p High Definition, and the picture is crystal clear, bright, and incredibly vivid.
Audio Info: The audio comes in DTS-HD MA: English 5.1, Dolby Digital: English Descriptive Audio, French and Spanish. Subtitles are in English, Spanish and French.
Special Features: Making Those Who Wish Me Dead
Should You Buy It?
“Those Who Wish Me Dead” is a great star vehicle for Angelina Jolie, and she knocks it out of the park. As a matter of fact, the cast, top to bottom, is great and there is not a weak link in it. Finn Little really holds his own in his scenes with Jolie. I don’t think the film works without their chemistry. They have a strong bond together. It’s a gorgeous film to look at, and it’s great entertainment. I highly recommend you pick this film up the next time you are out at your local retailer. You won’t regret it. It’s one of the more surprising movies of 2021.
**Disclaimer** I received a Blu-ray copy of this film from Warner Brothers to review for free. The opinions and statements in the review are mine and mine alone.