When it comes to the western genre, director Taylor Sheridan has his finger on the pulse and knows how to use it to his advantage to tell a high-paced, action story, and that’s where he takes audiences in all-new neo-western thriller Those Who Wish Me Dead.
Pursued by Jack and Patrick Blackwell, two assassins who killed his father, Conner Casserly meets veteran fire warden and wilderness survival expert Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie), who offers him shelter in her lookout tower. When the assassins set fire to the forest in order to find the pair, Faber and Casserly must both survive a deadly blaze that threatens to consume them, and outwit the killers on their trail.
It’s been some time since we’ve had a proper director who understands the machinations and legacy of the western genre, but in recent years writer/director Taylor Sheridan has proven that he understands the workings of this genre like no one else. Following in the line of great directors such as John Ford, John Sturges, Sam Peckinpah and Clint Eastwood, Sheridan has shown that he knows how to tell a compelling and interesting story in works such as Hell or High Water and Wind River and that he can capture the true wild character of America’s frontier. Now in Those Who Wish Me Dead, he takes audiences into the wild backcountry of Montana and creates a contest of the hunter and the hunted that gives plenty of energy.
Sheridan finds another brilliant collaborator in the form of Angelia Jolie, and this is Jolie unlike we’ve ever seen her before. As veteran hotshot and smoke jumper Hannah Faber, Jolie is an adrenaline junkie wild woman who has somewhat of a death wish and is nursing a painful past mistake while on the job. When trouble finds her though she has to accept the care of a boy who needs her help and it soon becomes a race against time to get him to safety. This part is a change-up for Jolie, and she jumps headfirst into the action which comes fast and quick thanks to Sheridan’s direction and there’s plenty of challenges that come her way in this one.
Providing a good sense of backup in Those Who Wish Me Dead is Jon Bernthal as Sheriff Ethan Sawyer, and this marks his third collaboration with Sheridan. As Ethan, Bernthal is an honest man and noted tracker who finds himself trying to provide back-up to Faber and Conner as they desperately try to escape the Blackwell’s and it’s another solid turn for Bernthal. Sawyer is probably the most white hat character that Bernthal has ever portrayed, as he has crafted a career playing sharp-eyed anti-heroes and I firmly believe that the white hat role fits him perfectly here. His chemistry with Jolie is also impressive and there’s a great underlying sexual tension held between the two with their character being former lovers.
Mixing it up in Those Who Wish Me Dead in the role of the assassins who have been tasked to hunt down and eliminate Connor Casserly as the Blackwell’s are Aiden Gillen and Nicholas Hoult, and they make a lethal pair here. While Gillen is always an adept villain and a real talent for crafting nasty characters, the real change-up comes for Nicholas Hoult who trades in his pretty-boy status for this banged up and ugly character who has a Spec-Ops background and applies plenty of lethal force when necessary. He gives it a good-go as this bad guy character and it’s something different for the actor which is fun to watch.
Sheridan finds his action here in Those Who Wish Me Dead by calling upon the natural landscape of the Montana wilderness and using it to his narrative advantage. Crafting one of the biggest blazes ever seen on the big screen, Sheridan creates a roaring forest fire that acts as the film’s third antagonist and it truly gives Angelina Jolie’s Hannah Faber plenty of trouble. Out of control and amplifying the action, the film’s final act takes place in the midst of this blaze and its unstoppable force and heat lead to some gnarly moments on screen.
Those Who Wish Me Dead offers up plenty of originality within the western genre and presents Angelina Jolie in a whole new light, and those looking for a few thrills should head to it immediately.
Image: Warner Brothers Pictures