It’s been quite some time since Angelina Jolie was a box office draw, and I’m kind of happy about that in a weird way.
Those Who Wish Me Dead is a Taylor Sheridan (Hell or High Water, Sicario, Sons of Anarchy) film that follows the tale of a recently orphaned boy and an emotionally broken smokejumper, Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie). The catch? The boy, Conner (Finn Little) has been orphaned by assassins (Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult)) that were hired by a mob boss (Tyler Perry) because Conner’s father is a forensic accountant that found enough dirt to bury several wealthy and influential politicians. The two hike through the forest to escape both the assassins and the fire they started, all while Sheriff Ethan Sawyer (Jon Bernthal) and his pregnant wife, Allison (Medina Senghore) mount separate rescue operations
So that’s a lot, right? Taylor Sheridan’s biggest draw has always been his ability to create tight, concise narratives involving a lot of complicated plot nonsense. Adapting this novel, adapted to the screen by the original author Michael Koryta, turns into a rousing success when all pieces of the puzzle are combined. Seriously, this is a wild beast and I love it.
There’s a lot to explore, but the main takeaway is that Angelina Jolie has given her first truly great performance since the 90s. I’ve always enjoyed her presence; she’s a striking figure with skill to spare, but many producers and directors made more use of her magnetic beauty than her talent. She’s come back with an absolute vengeance this time, her pathos clear and demeanor precise as she gives us a look at a guilt-ridden drunk that’s acting out in an attempt to die. I’ve never been a huge fan of the actress, but with this I think that opinion is changing. She’s set up with a great team around her (in truth, this feels more like a two-hander between Jolie and Bernthal), but the woman steals the show and I’m so pleased with her work.
Once in a while I get a surprise like this. The trailer screened a month ago, just before I watched The Unholy, and I was dismissive of it. Sitting down to start it felt like an obligation, but telling you all to give it a shot is truly an honor. I adored Those Who Wish Me Dead, and I hope everyone gives it the dignity of a watch. If you want to avoid something so centric on Jolie, just remember that you’ve got Bernthal, Gillen, and Hoult to carry your sensibilities through. Don’t skip out on this wonderful film.
Those Who Wish Me Dead is streaming on HBO Max until June 13th.