Those Who Wish Me Dead
Angelina Jolie, Finn Little, Nicholas Hoult, Aiden Gillen, Medina Senghore, Jon Bernthal, Tory Kittles, Jake Weber, Tyler Perry
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…neo-Western goodness with what are raring to be some of the most engaging characters of 2021.
Taylor Sheridan is to the modern Western what Mike Flanagan is to the modern horror film: through an uncanny knack for character building and a keenly postmodern perspective, he has built a body of work that can stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the all-time legends. From his incredible script work on Sicario and Hell or High Water, to his cannon blast of a directorial debut Wind River, to the ramp-up in quality with his series Yellowstone; his work over the past six years has been damn-near untouchable. And sure enough, his return to the director’s chair continues that momentum.
Teaming up with In The Heart Of The Sea’s Charles Leavitt and novelist Michael Koryta (who also wrote the literary source material), Sheridan’s latest take on Western revisionism finds him in highly environmental territory, echoing classic sentiment that the only thing more dangerous than the Frontier are the people who inhabit it.
While the effects work on the mother to end all wildfires is a little suss in places, it still creates a harrowing backdrop for the chase thrills within.
Putting a forest inferno at their backs, and lightning strikes at their heels, makes the red-dot threat of the villains that much more pronounced; you’d almost forgive them for risking the blaze.
The narrative itself almost feels arbitrary, as the audience is mainly left to run with ‘Witnesses must die’ as the impetus for the plot. Where that normally may be a bad thing becomes irrelevant in the face of what is really keeping things moving: the characters.
Beyond the pitch-perfect casting (right down to a well-utilised Tyler Perry, adding Sheridan to the shortlist of directors who can lay claim to such a feat), every character in attendance makes an impression, possesses the kind of personal strength that makes for immediate watchability, and whose presence only intensifies when put next to each other.
Angelina Jolie and Storm Boy’s Finn Little as grief-stricken targets bring the drama and quite a bit of humour as the central heroes (this is easily one of Sheridan’s most fun scripts to date). Gillen and Hoult as father-and-son partners in sociopathy turn odds-based professionalism into genuine nerve-shaking as the villains. And the degree to which Jon Bernthal and Medina Senghore’s survivalist couple refuse to take shit from anyone is immensely satisfying. Senghore in particular had damn well better get noticed for her performance here, as she is given the coolest and most heart-breaking one-liners of the entire film and sings them like a passerine. The spirit of Natalie Hanson is strong with this one.
Taylor Sheridan has knocked it out of the park yet again, delivering more of that neo-Western goodness with what are raring to be some of the most engaging characters of 2021. Not to mention some of the best action thrills, in a year that is already showing its teeth in that department (Nobody, Mortal Kombat, Shadow In The Cloud, Godzilla Vs. Kong). For Those Who Wish Me Dead, we salute you.