The Oscar Project Reviews
Angelina Jolie's return to the action/thriller genre leaves quite a bit to be desired and neither the visual effects of blazing forest fires nor the Oscar-winning actress can save a script that begs for some cohesive elements to hold it together.
Jolie stars as Hannah Faber, a hard drinking, "one of the guys" smokejumper in the American west who has nightmares of a group of boys she was unable to save in a recent forest fire. She is relegated to a fire tower in the wilderness, responsible for spotting potential fires and approaching storms while dealing with her dreams in isolation.
On the other side of the country, Owen Casserly (Jake Weber) and his son Conner (Finn Little) set off on a cross-country trek when Owen learns of the death of his boss because of accounting information Owen himself uncovered. He fears (correctly) that he will be the next target and hits the road in an attempt to save himself and Conner from the pair of assassins (Nicholas Hoult and Aidan Gillen) following them.
Conner ends up by himself and finds Hannah who he must decide to trust with his life, or continue running on his own. Add some supplemental characters in the mix including the local Sherriff who is Hannah's ex-boyfriend/Connor's uncle and his pregnant wife who runs a survival school in the backwoods and a random appearance by Tyler Perry (who also produced the film) and it feels like a mishmash of stock characters that have little chemistry together and who change their character make-up too much for the audience to get truly invested in who they are.
I had high hopes for this film, but it fails to deliver. Director Taylor Sheridan set the bar high with earlier films including his writing efforts on two Sicario films and Hell of High Water, for which he received a nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Even his previous directorial outing Wind River had more intensity to it and a strong story. I can't truly recommend this film, but do elevate it from a 4 to a 5 based on the acting of young Finn Little. While I think the directing lacked a bit, his portrayal of Connor feels real and he pulls it off very well, especially opposite an actor such as Jolie.
There are just too many things where I stopped and said "that could never happen" in this film, and it took me out of the story. There is potential here, but unfortunately it is not realized with this outing.
5 out of 10
Those Who Wish Me Dead is playing in theaters and available to stream on HBOMax.