It’s entertaining to see Angelina Jolie fight fire with fire.
I’ve looked at some chats about why the forest fire movie “Only the Brave” flopped at the box office in 2017, and I’ve caught on to some answers. One reason is that Lionsgate and Black Label Media had a disagreement, which is why the latter turned to Sony. Others include its title, its choice of being released in mid-October, which isn’t ideal for most films, and its marketing campaign. Regardless, for those of us who did see it, we were moved by its powerful and heartbreaking retelling of the true story, and its A-list cast.
Now, we have “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” released by Warner Bros and New Line Cinema, which only showed a trailer less than a month before its release. This is a year, however, when Warner Bros and HBO Max collaborate to give those who aren’t completely ready to go back to the movie a chance to see it. And on the other hand, more people have been retuning. But on a curious side, it might face competition with the new “Saw” spin-off “Spiral” with Chris Rock and Samuel L. Jackson, so it’s hard to say definitely.
Being a film critic who doesn’t use his money to lite his cigars, I was entertained by its thrills and characters, particularly its lead Angelinas Jolie and a child actor named Finn Little. This is also, the first movie the brilliant Taylor Sheridan has directed since “Wind River,” which made my list of the best films of 2017, if you recall. It’s not as deep as that film, but it does take some risks and doesn’t rely on countless bullets the ways “Tom Clancy’s John Clark” and “Wrath of Man” did. Yes, there are guns and a house explosion, but we also have forest fires, covered in special effects (rest assured).
Jolie stars as a smokejumper named Hannah Faber, who regrets not rescuing some kids during a forest fire, and comes across a boy, whose father was just murdered by two assassins. The father (Jake Weber) is a forensic accountant, who holds secrets against two assassins (Aidan Gillan) and a dirty cop (Tyler Perry), and he tells his son Connor (Little) to take his secrets to the news station to expose the truth. Knowing his intentions, the assassins create a distraction by starting a forest fire. Connor ends up in Hannah’s care, and since a lightning storm fried the tower’s communication, their only recourse is to hike to town. That’s when the fire and its arsonists pursue them.
Again, “Those Who Wish Me Dead” isn’t as deep as Sheridan’s previous masterpieces, but it still gives the entertainment value we need. It’s mostly because of how Jolie is well-cast in the role of a smokejumper with a dark memory who is trying not to make the same mistakes with the kid. Her character is strong-willed and determined, and she works well with Little. And I especially enjoyed the supporting work from Jon Bernthal (whom I just did a video chat with) as the local sheriff and Medina Senghore as his pregnant wife, both of whom are also threatened by the bad guys.
This is a great-looking film with the cinematography done by Ben Richardson (Sheridan’s collaborator) and the score by Brian Tyler. It has its ups and downs, and even if there’s not much payoff in the villains, they still have their moments with the best being in their introduction.
In Theaters and On HBO Max This Friday