Taylor Sheridan is someone who has made the reinvented Western his main form of work. His stories may be set in this era, but his main characters often have familiar classic Western tropes. Sicario’s idealistic FBI officer Kate Macer, Hell or High Water’s bank robber Toby Howard, and Wind River’s dutiful hunter Cory Lambert are all Sheridan’s protagonists. They are all dedicated and principled characters living in bubbles that tend to be threatened by outside sources. You can see those qualities in the writer-director’s new TV show Yellowstone, which can be described as Western containing cell phones and cars.
His new film is entitled ‘Those Who Wish Me Dead’, with Angelina Jolie playing a smokejumper in Montana who must keep a teenager safe from hired assassins. Taylor Sheridan directs the movie deftly, and he shares screenwriting credits with Michaela Koryta and Charles Leavitt, who penned the novel the film is based on. Therefore, the film has many of Sheridan’s familiar grit, but just shades of this writer-director’s rich characterization.
Angelina Jolie is wildland firefighter Hannah Faber who resides in the Montana-based woods. That demoralized character equals her male peers when it comes to drinking alcoholic beverages as well as graceless humor. Anyhow, Faber suffers privately after committing a mistake that played a part in three kids’ death. After their death, Faber gets downgraded to a fire lookout tower in which she should search for wildland fires.
Meanwhile, Aidan Gillen and Nicholas Hoult’s assassin characters murder every person associated with the probe into a government official’s wrongdoing. Jake Weber’s accountant character Owen, who escapes with his son Connor to the wilderness in Montana, is part of the two assassins’ hit list.
After being attacked, Connor flees into the wooded area where he comes across Faber, who aids him in evading the assassins. Finn Little, who plays Connor, and Angelina Jolie have pretty good chemistry, as they fill in their broadly portrayed characters with humorous moments. From that point, the film becomes a series of cunning maneuvers with Little and Jolie’s characters outrunning the killers who set a raging wildfire to distract Montana natives.
The time that Sheridan takes to make his characters deeper is what makes the film so refreshing, even though the director puts them in pretty tense circumstances. Similar to a contemporary version of Sydney Pollock, Sheridan is popular for using internal conflict in the form of a driving force for his cinematic narrative. His films usually thrive on a tenuous form of balance.
The film has that alchemy in shades, but it wishes to achieve two mutually exclusive goals. It has intense, expertly shot action sequences, but its contemplative tone makes the audience believe that Sheridan understands the complexities of his characters. Anyhow, he does not understand those enough in this film.
With a 100-minute running time, it just cannot encompass all the shootouts, heavy drama, and special effects without becoming a tad cliched in its most important moments. There are more plotlines and characters than required for the film. Anyhow, that does not take away from the fact that it has an engaging plot, with terrific performance supporting actors such as Medina Senghore and Jon Bernthal to boot. Even writer-director Tyler Perry has a cameo role as the hired killers’ boss.
At the end of the day, it is Angelina Jolie’s film. The star brings compassion and benevolence to an independent and tough woman character who must safeguard a child while accepting her own suppressed guilt. Jolie has mainly been portraying action hero characters for the last decade or so. Therefore, it is the first time where we see her exploring a multifaceted character since Changeling, her 2008 film with Clint Eastwood.
All actors bring their own textures to Taylor Sheridan’s signature wit. Anyhow, it takes a motivational center of interest for the movie to smolder. You may watch the film on AT&T’s HBO Max streaming platform or in select Los Angeles theaters.