Taylor Sheridan’s Those Who Wish Me Dead

I miss the days in the 90’s or so when big budget, star studded thrillers dominated the summer and they’d often have slightly outrageous yet totally exciting high concepts that melded different elements into one palette. Taylor Sheridan’s Those Who Wish Me Dead is a terrific example of this and a banger of a film, the exact type of summer popcorn escapism I miss having around a lot. Angelina Jolie plays an ex wildfire fighter/smoke jumper with PTSD after a mission gone horribly wrong, now relegated to fire-watch atop a lonely tower and occasionally getting arrested by the local sheriff (Jon Bernthal) for doing insane daredevil stunts just to keep the pain at bay. One day a kid runs into her region of Montana forest trying to escape two psychotic contract killers (Aiden Gillen and Nicholas Hoult) who have chased him and his dad (Jake Weber) in there from the city, for dark reasons that are, wisely, only hinted at. It’s up to a haunted Jolie to protect this kid at all costs with the help of Bernthal’s badass lawman, his equally badass and very pregnant wife (Medina Senghore) and some of her former smoke jumping crew, but will it be enough to stop these incredibly heinous assassins? I’m not even kidding either, these two are literal cold blooded monsters who aren’t above blowing up houses with families in them, killing pregnant women and kids and even deliberately starting a wildfire that torches half a valley just to smoke out their prey. “I hate this place” growls an unreasonably sinister Gillen (if you thought he was slimy in Game Of Thrones, well…), to which another character replies “it hates you back” in trademark pulpy yet elemental Taylor Sheridan writing fashion. Jolie is stunning here and I wish she’d headline more films these days, she captures the flint-spark resilience and crushing vulnerability of her character beautifully in a top shelf performance. The sweeping Montana cinematography is gorgeous and threatening in equal parts, the violence and action vicious and unrelenting, as is the very effective suspense. I see that this has gotten lukewarm reactions almost all across the board and I’m really not sure what film most people were watching; this is the kind of blockbuster stuff I live for and miss greatly these days. It’s bombastic, grandly drawn, hearty genre meal material that’s exciting, tightly written, unforgivingly brutal and solidly directed. One of the best so far this year, I’m my books.

-Nate Hill

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