This movie is adaptated and directed by Taylor Sheridan who penned the recent adaptation of Tom Clancy’s Without Remorse. Here Sheridan wrote this story with Charles Leavitt (In The Heart of the Sea, 7th Son) and the source material’s author Michael Koryta. He’s rounds up quite the cast including Angelina Jolie (Unbroken), Finn Little (2067), Jon Bernthal (The Punisher, The Wolf of Wall Street), Medina Senghore (Happy!), Jake Weber (Hungry Hearts, Medium), Aidan Gillen (GoT) and Nicholas Hoult (Dark Places, A Single Man).
Premise: In the Montana wilderness, a teenage boy, Connor, survives the attack that kills his father. Pursued by the assassins intent on silencing him, he meets a veteran smokejumper, Hannah Faber, who offers him shelter in her look out tower. Tracked down by the killers who set the forest on fire, Hannah and Connor, must escape the deadly blaze that threatens to consume them and outwitt their pursuers.
Review: Those Who Wish Me Dead moves a bit too fast but it keeps you hooked and engaged from start to finish. I am amazed at how they’ve trimmed that story down and combined some characters and storylines to narrow the focus one character, the boy named Connor. He still needs saving but not for the same reasons. The movie avoided that one plot point that bothered me so much in the novel and did away with some of the mes desirable aspects in the original (e.g. there’s a case of fridging* when you think about it, and they’ve swapped out a badly bruised and burnt woman for a pregnant one to name a few) but enough about the novel.
The conditions were much dyer for Connor, for who we have a hint that he’d been in a survival program, him mentioning liking the expense of the Montana wilderness – which is beautifully showcased in the movie – and a “creeks lead to rivers, rivers lead to cities.” reminder before it’s go time. The tension kept rising as the storytelling got richer with its characters and the location. As I’ve mentioned the landscape, the region is very much part of the story and not window dressing.
As for the cast, although Angelina Jolie is front and center, it’s not her character’s story but the entire cast’s. It starts with Jake Weber‘s Owen and Finn Little‘s Connor but their troubles reverberates into the lives of the others. Jon Bernthal and Medina Senghore shine in this movie, they have great moments, particularly Senghore. And even if Aiden Gillen and Nicholas Hoult do a great job their characters are not the chilling assassins I expected but are written as your run of mil baddies, it’s the actors that brought some of that edge.
Taylor Sheridan has written a lot of movies that I’ve seen but this is the first one, that he’s directed that I’ve watched. He does a great job here and from what I know of the movies he’s directed they seem to be quite location centric, which makes this story right up his alley. In a limited amount of time he really gives you a feel for the setting and its people. I quite enjoyed that. The visual effect are also impressive and well used, however I still don’t understand how a watchtower is not protected against lightening, but I know that’s nitpicking.
Those Who Wish Me Dead is a solid thriller, nothing too fancy, it’s engaging, it entertains and the ensemble cast is great. It has the heart of the novel but is enough of its own thing to make both stories (book & movie) enjoyable.
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Those Who Wish Me Dead is also available on The Book Depository and other book retailers near you.
*Fridging is a sexist trope in TV, film, etc. in which a female character is killed at the start to give a male character the chance to avenge her; also called WiR (Women in Refrigerators)