If you have been wondering what Angelina Jolie has been up to lately, apparently she had been getting back to her action, er, roots. I hesitate to describe her early career as such because one of my earliest cinematic memories of her is Hackers (1995). There are some exciting moments in it, but they mostly involve the oh-so 1990s activity of roller blading. After this, she began getting more straight forward action roles, such as in the Lara Croft series. And then she met Brad Pitt doing Mr. & Mrs. Smith (2005). From there we got all the drama that came with their relationship, and she seemed to fade from the lime light somewhat, unless you count the Maleficent and Kung Fu Panda films. I mean, her International Movie Database (IMDb) page does not have any listing between 2017 and 2019. That is practically an eternity for a working actress. While I have no particular interest in her, at least she seems back to work with Those Who Wish Me Dead.
The beginning of Those Who Wish Me Dead is a bit of a mess. First, there is Hannah Faber (Angelina Jolie), a fire fighter, having a nightmare. She is dreaming about a forrest blaze in the Montana mountains she had fought where she misjudged the wind and that mistake ending up costing the lives of a trapped group of boys. Then it is on to Fort Lauderdale and Jack Blackwell (Aidan Gillen) and Patrick Blackwell (Nicholas Hoult) ringing the doorbell of the house of a local politician. They are dressed like utility workers, gaining entrance by saying they are investigating a purported gas leak. Cut to them leaving and the house explodes. Next it is the kitchen of forensic accountant Owen Casserly (Jake Weber), who is making breakfast for his son Connor (Finn Little). On the nearby television is a news report of the explosion in Fort Lauderdale, as well as the target, and the news rattles him. As Owen explains to his son as they decide to flee towards Montana, he had uncovered some financial irregularities with some powerful people, and they are now eliminating anyone with knowledge of this situation. It is not made explicit who these people are, but it seems like the government. So where do the Casserly boys run to? Why, Montana, of course. At one point, they had taken part in Allison Sawyer’s (Medina Senghore) survival school, and for some reason that means they trust the Sawyers to hide them. Unfortunately, the Blackwells figure out where the Casserlys are going, and ambush them near their destination. Owen is killed, but Connor manages to escape. Wandering through the woods, he happens upon Hannah, who is tasked with keeping watch at one of the fire towers dotting the landscape. Because Owen had told Connor to not trust anyone, he initially decides to run. But Hannah’s rescue instincts kick in, and she manages to get a hold of Connor. Not being able to locate Connor, the Blackwells continue on to the Sawyer homestead. There they encounter a very pregnant Allison, who says that Owen is not there and manages to get away. Shortly after this, her husband Ethan (Jon Bernthal), a local sheriff, arrives and is captured by the Blackwells. They use the cop in order to track Connor, telling him that if he does not help they will kill Allison. In order to flush Connor out of the trees, the Blackwells also decide to start a forrest fire. With Ethan’s grudging assistance, they make it to Hannah’s fire tower where she is with Connor. Also getting there at roughly the same time is Allison. Ethan helps Hannah and Connor to escape, Allison takes out Jack, and Patrick chases Hannah and Connor. With the growing inferno the Blackwells started getting ever closer, Hannah manages to mortally wound Patrick, leaving him to die in the flames. Because the flames are now too close, Hannah and Connor take shelter in a nearby creek and survive.
There are those who will watch Those Who Wish Me Dead and will enjoy it because there are some exciting moments. The action scenes are well done, and the lurking monster that is the fire casts a looming shadow over all the proceedings. Given how things apparently went the last time Hannah faced such a conflagration, you wonder whether or not she will be able to muster up the courage to face this threat. This is never enough for this viewer. The aggravating part about this film is that the specifics are never explained. Who are the people after Connor? What is the information Own passes on to his son? What happens to Connor at the end? You might say, well, why do these things matter? We come to watch this film to see whether or not people will survive the big fire! Fine. Yet, I find the things that it hints at and never pays off maddeningly tantalizing. A perfect example of this is when Jack meets the main figure behind the mission to kill the Casserlys, Arthur Phillip (Tyler Perry). Again, we are never told what organization this person represents. He just shows up, gives the Blackwells some orders, and is never seen again. Given everything this person seems to know, would it not be logical to assume that he would be able to get to Connor before he can give his story to the news as he does in the end? But, I guess we are not supposed to pay attention to these scenes.
If there is any reason to watch Those Who Wish Me Dead, it is Angelina Jolie’s performance. It is incredible, though not necessarily for her acting. If you are keeping score at home, she parachutes from a speeding truck, virtually falls from a couple stories of her fire tower, is struck by lightning, and is beaten to a pulp. She is able to walk away from them all, despite her wounds. What makes her character somewhat more interesting is the internal wounds she has stemming from the fire where she could not rescue the group of boys. Since then, she apparently has been self-medicating with alcohol and pulling dangerous stunts like the truck base-jumping incident. Emotional wounds are tough, but like anything else our society demands quick fixes for them. In the film, Hannah managing to protect Connor is set up as a way for her to let go of her trauma. Faith teaches something different. Of course, any wound (emotional or physical) can be miraculously healed. I have personally seen it happen. Other times, God may be calling us to take a deeper look at ourselves. God uses such hurt when we offer it up to Him not only to address our immediate needs, but to draw us closer to Him. Yet, because this is a dumb action film, we do not see anything like this in the film.
If you want excitement and nothing else, go ahead and watch Those Who Wish Me Dead. I am not really sure why it is called what it is considering Angelina Jolie is clearly the star, but whatever. It is available on HBO Max if you are still unsure about theaters. And here is to seeing Angelina Jolie in more films in the future.