Friday, May 14, 2021

Those Who Wish Me Dead

♣♣♣♣/♣♣♣♣♣

Smokejumper Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie) is still reeling from making a mistake that cost the lives of three young boys in one of her forest fire rescue missions. Failing her psychiatric evaluation, she is instead assigned by her ex and town sheriff Ethan Sawyer (Jon Bernthal) to be on the lookout for potential forest fires from high atop a tower in the middle of the woods. Meanwhile, Ethan’s brother-in-law Owen (Jake Weber) and his son Connor (Finn Little) are on the run from hitmen Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) and Jake Blackwell (Aidan Gillen). The duo eventually catches up on father and son, causing their car to crash down a ravine. Connor escapes, taking incriminating evidence with him as his father succumbs to his wounds. Banking on his advice to follow creeks because they lead to rivers that lead to towns, Connor crosses paths with Hannah, but can she really protect him from his two assailants who wish him dead?

Those Who Wish Me Dead can be many things, but it is definitely not boring. Remember when Jolie just walked around Venice in the absence of a relevant plot in that film called The Tourist? In this movie, she runs instead with a kid in tow. And a forest fire. And Little Finger and Beast trying to shoot both of them dead. Downtime is few and far between as you watch with bated breath as to how the heck this wannabe mother-and-son tandem is going to survive this sadistic double whammy of Man-vs-Man and Man-vs-Nature that their screenwriter has thrusted upon them.

It is frustrating to watch Jolie kind of helpless. Perhaps this has something to do with an entire generation who grew up seeing her kick ass onscreen without breaking a sweat. Devoid of superpowers or training for espionage, all she can showcase here is mere determination to survive, along with a dash of maternal instincts that comes naturally. Maybe it is high time we all accepted that she is no longer the agile femme fatale she once was, nor does she have to continue to be. That’s a good thing as far as her career is concerned. That is pointing towards the direction of growth.

If anything, it is Medina Senghore as Ethan’s pregnant wife Allison Sawyer who captivates as a soon-to-be mother who goes head-to-head with the hitmen. The character’s current situation makes it so impressive that you just end up rooting for her. As for the duo of Hoult and Gillen, they are not that hard to hate, which is probably the only requirement for their characters anyway, who are one-dimensional at best. Both Bernthal and Little offer solid support, especially the latter, thanks to his chemistry with Jolie.

It still couldn’t be denied that the film lacks a credible plot. The narrative comes across as a sloppy montage of chase scenes lumped together to keep you on the edge of your seat. That the runtime clocks in at just around 100 minutes is already indicative that there is nothing much to do with this material. As for some positive aspects, the forest fire scenes do a great job in bringing you in the middle of the action, especially for those who do not really experience such tragedies in their own countries.

Jolie also gives justice to the PTSD involved in such a risky and demanding job by virtue of Hannah’s constant struggle with her regrets and inner demons. The faux motherhood angle is a welcome addition as it provides an avenue for her character arc to go full circle and have a worthy conclusion, that of making up for past mistakes by taking on another endeavor that paves the way for moving on. All in all, Those Who Wish Me Dead is a decent thriller for a boring weekend of streaming. As a cinematic offering, though, it would have felt like rehashed material from the 90’s, had you seen this in a movie house, that is.

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