Monday, June 7, 2021

Film Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead

I admit it. I've never been that big of an Angelina Jolie movie fan. Her characters always feel a little bit too full of themselves. They're always just a little bit too cool, a bit too arrogant. And even when the film works, I wonder if another actress could have brought a little bit more depth to the role.

Um. Is Angelina Jolie wearing make-up while fighting a forest fire?

Jolie's new film, Those Who Wish Me Dead, allows the actress a little bit more room to show character depth. Hannah (Jolie) is a small town smokejumper, a wildland firefighter that drops into the heart of a blaze to fight it. On a recent fire, she witnessed the death of a family. This resulted in psychological trauma that she struggles with throughout the film. Her struggle includes both alcohol and dangerous adrenaline-fueled stunts, like popping a parachute while standing in the back of a pickup truck. And though Hannah's make-up is always perfect -- it is Angelia Jolie after all -- she is clearly fighting demons and struggling with PTSD.

After failing a psychological evaluation, Hannah is assigned to work at a fire lookout. There she encounters a scared child alone in the wilderness. The child -- Conner, played by Finn Little, is being hunted by a pair of assassins, for some reason. It's not too clear why. And though Hannah is struggling emotionally, she takes on the child and tries to help him escape from both the assassins and a raging forest fire they set.

So here's the thing. There's some goofy stuff in the movie. I already mentioned the wildland firefighter with perfect make-up. And I already mentioned her penchant for parachuting out of the back of a pickup truck. But did I mention that the seasoned firefighters hoot and holler and drink loudly to interrupt the graduation of junior firefighters...? Or did I mention that law enforcement officers in the film seem to forget that they can call for backup when there are violent criminals in the woods? Or maybe I forgot to note that bad guys are so over the top that it seems like they should be twisting their respective mustaches as they plan to murder everyone they see...

And here's the other thing. There is a pregnant African American woman in the film -- Allison, played by Medina Senghore -- that is a badass outdoors woman. She teaches a wilderness survival school, rides horses and fights bad guys with an aerosol spray can and a fireplace. This is important for representation in the movies as well as in wilderness spaces. Similarly, one of the wildland firefighters is African American, and of course, Jolie represents a female wildland firefighter. So there is diversity here. And on top of that, the film explores issues of mental health amongst outdoors people and first responders.

None of that is common in an action movie. I wish there was more of it.

But what is unfortunately common, is that much of the film is sloppy. And while some of the action is engaging, most of it isn't. There are three separate storylines in the film that ultimately combine in a final confrontation, and while this could have worked, they just don't nail it.

Is it worth popping up some popcorn and watching on the little screen as a streaming movie? Maybe. But Those Who Wish Me Dead is not worth paying for...

--Jason D. Martin

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