Those Who Wish Me Dead is the latest contemporary western thriller from Taylor Sheridan (Wind RiverYellowstone) and stars Angelina Jolie.

Set in the forests of Montana, Jolie is Hannah, a respected member of the fire team, still a little off the rails following a fatal incident on her watch and is stationed in a lonely fire tower. At the same time, accountant Jake Weber is on the run with his son Finn Little, trying to reach his brother-in-law local sheriff Jon Bernthal, knowing that some bad guys are closing in on them.

The set-up does invite expectations of the usual thriller tropes but resists many of them. Jolie is excellent as the damaged “hero”, yet her journey does not rely on Tomb Raider like heroics, nor does it require her to be a surrogate mother. Finn Little is great as Connor, who is neither winey nor too cynical a teen as he learns to rely on Hannah’s assistance.

We never really learn full details of the incriminating information Connor’s father knew, or who is funding the killers, but it does not matter. The MacGuffin is sufficient to get the story going, and the excellent performances carry the film along.

Another positive is that we know nothing about Aiden Gillen and Nicholas Hoult as ruthless killers. It is great to see them being efficient and brutal machines and refreshingly, there are no redemption arcs on offer. Nor do they have the witty banter which some movies include to make you feel something for them. These are murderers, and the stakes are huge for the others whenever these two killers enter the scene.

Each character caught up in the story has their moments to shine, and there are terrific scenes between Bernthal and the killers. Likewise, scenes between the sheriff’s wife Medina Senghore and the killers are tense and exciting. Every character has their moment, and this makes for many satisfying scenes.

As a diversion, the killers set the forest aflame and the shots where the characters are near the burning devastation, where flames flood down the slopes like water igniting the forest floor are deeply frightening.

Those Who Wish Me Dead is an exciting survivalist thriller, which makes for great entertainment. It has a mid-90’s feel, which is not a complaint – hearkening back to the type of gritty thrillers which are few and far between nowadays. Do not be deceived by the relatively short run time, for it packs a lot into 100 minutes, does not outstay its welcome, and is most definitely worth your time.

Those Who Wish Me Dead is in cinemas where available and can be streamed in the US on HBO MAX.

First published on Reel Anarchy.

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