Those who wish me death is a simple dose of adrenaline

Photo: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

Angelina Jolie has a face made for the movies.

It’s those green eyes, which can shift from communicating anger to desire imperceptibly. It’s his famous pout, which can devastatingly display vulgarities and compliments with the same aplomb. But that’s more than its beauty. It’s her physicality, which is powerful in a way that belies the thinness of her body, and the overwhelming explosion of charisma that she brings to the screen. Yet for all of her screen presence, Jolie doesn’t guarantee a good movie. For each of his films that I adore (like his directorial effort By the sea), there are countless others who fall below the level of his fame or skill. It’s frustrating to see one of Hollywood’s most compelling stars often thrown into a lackluster job. That’s why it was so exciting to see her again with a suitable vehicle on the screen.

Go in Those who wish me death, I was curious more than anything, especially considering Taylor Sheridan’s involvement as a co-writer and director. (The film was also written by Charles Leavitt and Michael Koryta, based on the latter’s book). Sheridan, creator of the hit series Yellowstone, has been involved in work that piques my interest, including as a writer for Sicario and Against all odds. But his first directorial effort, Wind river, betrayed an uncomfortable racial policy in his choice to focus on white tracks (in a film about a murder on a reservation) and didn’t suggest anything particularly interesting about his visual and narrative perspective as a filmmaker. But Those who wish me death surprised me. The neo-western flexed piece is a lean, captivating, and action-packed adrenaline shot that hits in its aesthetic decisions and boasts of extremely fun twists on the part of its actors. More importantly, it proves once again why Jolie is a star. Some of the most touching compositions of Those who wish me death Study the blueprints of this famous face, plotting the means by which he can communicate desire, grief, and demonic destructiveness with lucid sincerity.

The film begins somewhat erratically, bouncing between Montana’s mountain ranges and the Florida coast, as it sets the stage for the violence that ensues. On paper, the plot sounds a bit much, but be patient. Forensic accountant Owen (Jake Weber) discovers and reports something he was not supposed to see: a report regarding the district attorney, who was killed in an explosion. A mysterious group of powerful people, who want to keep this information hidden, hire two hitmen, Jack (Aidan Gillen) and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult) to track down Owen. He leaves with his young son, Connor (Finn Little), to acquire help from his former brother-in-law, a sheriff named Ethan (played by the ever-powerful Jon Bernthal) in Montana. Owen is murdered by the assassins, and during a frantic quest to survive, Connor crosses paths with Montana smoke jumper, Hannah (Jolie), living in a fire tower. The two bond as they escape the assassins, who start a massive fire to cause confusion.

It might seem a bit tangled, but the movie is actually quite straightforward in the narrative design which is for the best. His delight comes from his striking visuals and the way they bring tension to the story. Sheridan and her cinematographer Ben Richardson treat the natural environment with a sense of awe that demonstrates the forces that work against the characters: flames lick the sky, devouring everything in their path; there are green hills; the water flows through crystalline blue streams, oblivious to the horror right at their edges. There is beauty in these moments, but underneath is an understanding of the power of nature and its fragility in the face of human destruction. (The fire that Hannah and Connor grapple with isn’t human-made.) This beauty is interwoven with some truly life-giving action sequences, where nature and other people often work against the characters. None of this would work if we weren’t invested in their fate, due to the skill of the actors involved. It’s a movie that does just as well make you worry about the characters as it does hell for them.

Those who wish me death relies on characterization. It gives us a window into the lives of these people, but not the whole story. There are some intriguing stories at play here, and while I would love to know more about their stories, the dedication of the film to the present moment in these people’s lives keeps the story up to speed. Even the smallest roles in the film feel lived. I imagine, thanks to the sincerity of the performances of the actors, that these people lived a full life before going to the screen. But it’s the main actors who really make the film such a suspenseful adventure. Gillen and Hoult bring the appropriate blend of cold determination to their assassin roles, their steadfast faces showing the depth of their moral turpitude. Finn Little gives the movie one of the best child actor’s tricks I’ve seen in a minute. Fortunately, he is not precocious. He looks like any child, both curious and easily bruised. He hits the right rope in shock as he explains Connor’s struggles following his father’s murder and why he desperately needs someone like Hannah. Bernthal, once again, proves why he is one of the most exciting American actors working today. He brings a tough-guy trademark and bravado that is undermined by the depth of his compassion, especially for his pregnant wife, Allison (Medina Senghore). When Allison walked up to the screen, I got a little worried considering the racial dynamics in Sheridan’s work. What will be the fate of this dark-skinned black woman? I had no idea she would become my favorite character in the movie, and it’s very dynamic.

It’s Senghore, not Jolie, who has the most biting, biting action streak in your seat. Patrick and Jack barge into her house when Ethan is not there. They threaten her verbally and physically, pointing a hot poker at her face. However, she is a resourceful and very intelligent badass, and not the type of woman to get confused. The sequence is a tense masterpiece – the directing, blocking, sound design, stuntmen and actors work in tandem to create a series of tense moments that highlight the film’s strengths, including the fun that everyone seems to have to be successful. I don’t want to go too far into the actual rhythms of the stage, but suffice to say it, it left me cheering. In another world, maybe Allison would be the leader of this story. This is how mature his story is. It was surprisingly poignant to see a dark-skinned black woman who is so capable and loved. And watching Allison’s remarkable scenes made me realize one of the biggest things about the movie – you can feel it in your body. Loving the cinema is often seen as an intellectual exercise. But looking at Those who wish me death Reminded me of the kind of movies that can make you scream with joy or fear.

Even though the movie is momentarily usurped by Senghore (who better be thrown into every fucking thing after that), Jolie brings he. Memory haunts Hannah. She cannot escape a mistake from the past that she blames herself: misinterpreting the wind as she tried to smother a fire, which resulted in the death of a peer and several children. Jolie plays Hannah in a register she knows intimately as an actor: the self-defeating, charismatic woman who will destroy herself sooner than choose to heal. Connor forces Hannah to change her perspective and choose life. “It’s impossible to feel sorry for myself around you,” she says in one of the film’s most moving scenes. Jolie became more angular as she got older, and that only made her a more fascinating subject to achieve. The camera studies the furrows of her face against the campfire in this scene, giving it an otherworldly quality. Throughout, she’s fascinating to watch, whether she examines her body after being struck by lightning, trades beards with Ethan, or comforts Connor. In many ways, Those who wish me death looks like a marriage between Jolie’s disparate aspects and her star image: the action flicks of her early years and her more motherly image of the past decade. If this is the second (or third?) Act of Jolie’s career, I’m more than up for the journey.

The plot of Those who wish me death extends gullibility in many ways, and I imagine this will creak some viewers. But I don’t go to the movies out of realism. I will feel and be impressed. Those who wish me death gets the truth about the emotional story he wants to tell, and that’s what matters. As the great Bette Davis once said, “Playing should be bigger than life. Scripts should be larger than life. Everything should be bigger than life. ” Those who wish me death certainly, without losing sight of the inner hunger pangs and the needs of its characters. More oddly, this acts as an argument that larger-than-life stars like Jolie can be a powerful tool in a movie’s arsenal if you know what to do with them.