Dog’s Movie House: “Those Who Wish Me Dead” a thriller that benefits from Angelina Jolie and some incredible scenery!

“Those Who Wish Me Dead” tells the tale of Hannah (Jolie) a smoke jumper (a firefighter who jumps from airplanes into forest fires) who is currently experiencing serious emotional trauma from a tragedy during a wildfire a year prior. It leads her to reckless pursuits that eventually get her arrested by the town sheriff Ethan (Jon Bernthal) who just happens to be her ex-boyfriend. To work things out, Hannah’s sent to a fire tower as a spotter where aside from being bored to death, she’s haunted by the memories of people she couldn’t save.

Into her life comes a young boy named Connor (an excellent Finn Little) who’s experienced tragedy of his own. His father, a forensic accountant, runs afoul of the mob who sends two hitmen (Aiden Gillen and Nicholas Hoult) after him. Before his father is killed, Connor is given a letter with evidence of the crime to take to any media outlet that will hear him. After surviving the hit on his dad, Connor manages to escape and runs right into the arms of Hannah. Together they both have to escape the vicious killers all while trying to avoid a raging wildfire that threatens the entire forest.

The killers hunting the child game has been played out many times before as has the redemption of a fallen hero, but the combination of the two here is hard to resist. The script (only co-written by Sheridan from the book by Michael Koryta) is not as sharp as it needs to be in terms of character development, but Sheridan’s directorial skills are more than enough to make up for the less-than-meaty script. As with “Wind River” and “Yellowstone” Sheridan makes the surrounding environment part of the story. The firefighting scenes and the wildfire itself are breathtaking in scope and atmosphere. When Hoult is hunting Jolie and Little in the latter stages of the film, the ambient glow and falling ash from the rapidly approaching wildfire give the film a haunting, claustrophobic atmosphere.

The performances are uniformly good, with Jolie doing excellent work as the suffering Hannah. Without being deeply written, Jolie is able to create a rounded character with a look or a word while simultaneously giving a convincing portrayal of a tough as nails firefighter. Bernthal is his usual reliable self as Ethan and he has wonderful chemistry with Medina Senghore as Ethan’s pregnant wife Allison. Allison also turns out to be the film’s most unlikely badass. Also good are Gillen and Hoult as the hitmen. They’re professionals who radiate cool, professional menace without going over the top into camp. Jake Weber is good as Connor’s father, radiating kindness and resolve in an underwritten role. Little is good with everybody, especially in the rare quiet moments with Jolie. The two create a convincing bond in a limited length of time.

The action is tight and well done, the scenery fantastic, and the performances are quite good, making “Those Who Wish Me Dead” a enjoyable piece of cinematic entertainment. The movie deserves to be seen on the big screen, but it’s streaming for the first month on HBO Max. 3 1/2 Out Of 5 On Kendog’s Barkometer! So Sayeth The Kendog!

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