Those Who Wish Me Dead Review

Last Updated on August 2, 2021

PLOT: A smokejumper (Angelina Jolie) reeling from a tragedy is forced to protect a young boy (Finn Little) who’s being hunted through the Montana wilderness by two cold-blooded professional killers (Nicholas Hoult & Aidan Gillen).

REVIEW: Outside of Maleficent, Angelina Jolie hasn’t done a legit action movie since Salt way back in 2010. With Those Who Wish Me Dead, she makes a triumphant return to the genre in a slick, solid thriller that feels like a lost nineties action flick in the best possible way. Co-written and directed by Taylor Sheridan (based on a book by Michael Koryta – who also had a hand in the screenplay along with Charles Leavitt), the film offers Jolie a tailor-made role as a woman of action laid low by a horrible tragedy. A smokejumper, she had to watch a family burn to death after “reading the wind wrong”, which has led to a nasty bout with the bottle and being regulated to tower duty thanks to the interference of an ex (Jon Bernthal) who’s worried she’s going to self destruct.

Jolie is believable in the part, with early scenes showing her partying with her rough and tumble smokejumper pals establishing a “one of the boys” camaraderie that comes through. However, unlike her earlier roles, Jolie isn’t a superwoman here. She’s vulnerable, both physically and emotionally. Early on she takes a nasty fall while rappelling down a role that leaves her hands pretty heavily injured – not an easy injury when pitted against a couple of killers.

Her chemistry with Finn Little is great, with her adopting a warm, maternal tone to the traumatized boy that makes us buy the fact that he would immediately trust her. The son of a forensic accountant (Jake Webber) with the goods on a syndicate (run by Tyler Perry of all people in an against-type cameo), he wants to take shelter with his uncle (coincidentally Jolie’s ex-flame Bernthal) and his survivalist wife (Medina Senghore) but winds up with Jolie instead.

Those Who Wish Me Dead is more of an ensemble than you’d think, with Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult getting plenty of screen time as the psycho killers out to kill this kid. Hoult is the physical threat of the two who gets a cool fight with Jolie, while Gillen is the crazy one. Gillen has a bloodcurdling moment with the pregnant Senghore which is probably the best scene in the movie, with her character proving to be just as badass as Jolie’s in her own way. Bernthal, a Sheridan regular, also gets a nice part as the salt of the earth sheriff’s deputy who winds up a prisoner of the dastardly duo. His big moment of defiance against them is terrific, and it's nice to see him (at last) playing a true blue good guy (in Sheridan films he’s usually a little more grey).

The movie also has some pretty nifty setpieces, including a ton of blazing infernos. It's probably the most visceral smoke jumper movie since the underrated Only the Brave, and Sheridan knows just how to make this a lean, effective thriller. It’s rare you get a major movie like this in at 100 minutes, but Sheridan keeps it tight and entertaining throughout. It’s the kind of rock-solid programmer that we used to get regularly but now seems all too rare. It’s a solid little flick and a nifty comeback for Jolie, who seems pumped to get back into action between this and Marvel’s Eternals.


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About the Author

Chris Bumbray began his career with JoBlo as the resident film critic (and James Bond expert) way back in 2007, and he has stuck around ever since, being named editor-in-chief in 2021. A voting member of the CCA and a Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic, you can also catch Chris discussing pop culture regularly on CTV News Channel.