Finally, free from those terrifying horns, black cloak and devilishly intoxicating voice that saw Maleficent and its sequel help propel the Disney live-action remakes/reimaginings into gear, we have our Angelina back and it feels so good. Other factors, of course, have conspired to keep her away from the screen more than many of us would have liked, but she has also been very particular about the roles she does take, meaning from the outset her appearance in the new Taylor Sheridan film based on a best-seller immediately piques many people’s interest, such as our own.
The book, written by Michael Koryta who also serves as co-writer, has been manoeuvred and adjusted to play to its strengths – namely Jolie and Sheridan – but much of the basic premise remains: Hannah Faber (Jolie) is a smoke jumper who, years previous, struggled to contain a wild, unpredictable forest fire which saw many lives lost, including those of three children caught at “ground zero”. Now back in a watchtower in the serene yet dangerous Montana wilderness, she encounters Connor (Finn Little), a teenage boy who has escaped the clutches of two shooters (Nicholas Hoult and Aiden Gillen) who murdered his father in front of him.
After his brilliant work on Sicario, Hell Or High Water, Wind River and TV show Yellowstone, Taylor Sheridan is hot property. His unrivalled, propulsive style has seen him become one of the most sought after writers and directors in Hollywood, despite still keeping his feet firmly planted in and around his home states of Wyoming and Montana. Those Who Wish Me Dead is no different and perfect fodder for him and his stylistics, capturing both the serene surroundings of the peaceful mountains and diverse terrains, together with the darker, more dangerous peaks that lurk within, even if the generic, disposable nature to the films antagonists leaves a lot to be desired.
That strand of the film, despite its necessity, threatens to undo all its good work, despite two decent turns from Gillen and Hoult, but they just about pull through. Beautifully shot by Ben Richardson, everything looks impeccable even amongst so much danger, and as with Wind River in particular, transports you into this world with ease and precision, amplified by Brian Tyler‘s atmospheric score.
The star, of course, is Jolie and once more showcases her immeasurable, unique talents and, as suspected, is the film’s shining light. Anchoring the film superbly, she exudes control, patience, love and ferocity all at once and joins a growing list of patiently and intricately woven female leads in Sheridan’s films that feel fresh, relevant and modern. Jolie can play action heroine with her eyes closed after the likes of Salt, Wanted and Tomb Raider, but her warm, mothering nature is what she excels at here and, along with Finn Little‘s humble performance, resonates beyond all the tangled-web intrigue and what truly lights the flames.
Action, Drama | USA, 2021 | 15 | Cinema | 17th May 2021 (UK) | Warner Bros. | Dir.Taylor Sheridan | Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Nicholas Hoult, Aidan Gillen, Jon Bernthal, Jake Weber, Tyler Perry