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Mario Bautista, has been with the entertainment industry for more than 4 decades. He writes regular columns for People's Journal and Malaya.

May 21, 2021



‘THOSE WHO WISH ME DEAD’ is an action thriller on HBO MAX starring Angelina Jolie who goes on an action mode after starring in the fantasy movie, “Maleficent”. 

This is based on a novel by Michael Koryta who also helped write the script. The director is Taylor Sheridan, best known as writer of the Oscar-nominated “Hell or High Water” and writer-director of “Wind River”. 

Jolie plays Hannah, a firefighter who is suffering from guilt feelings for the death of a fellow smokejumper and three boys in a forest fire the previous year. She gets assigned to man a lookout tower in a forest in Montana. 

We then see two hired killers, Jack and Patrick (Nicholas Hoult and Aidan Gillen) cause a gas explosion in the house of a government official in Florida that brutally kills him and his whole family. 

A forensic accountant, Owen (Jack Weber), sees the news reporting the death of his boss and family in the gas explosion and he correctly figures out that he is next to be killed. 

He’s supposed to take his son, Connor (Finn Little, an Australian child actor who gets his Hollywood break in this movie), to school but foresees the danger they now face and decides that they go on the run. 

Owen plans to seek the help of his brother in law, Ethan (Jon Bernthal of “The Punisher”), a sheriff who’s the former boyfriend of Hannah but now lives with his pregnant wife in their own house in the forest. 

But the killers are able to pin point their destination and wait for them on the highway to ambush them. 

Their car is badly hit and goes downhill. Owen hands a letter to Connor that is evidence against the mob boss who killed his boss and now him. 

The details are not revealed but we can just guess it involves corrupt people in high places. 

Before he is riddled with more bullets, Owen then asks Connor to run and escape from the killers who thought they have killed both father and son.

The boy is wandering in the forest when he bumps into Hannah who tries to help him but he is initially suspicious and resists her.  

Hannah shows she’s sincere in trying to assist him and takes him to the lookout tower to ask for help, but she discovers their radio and all connections were destroyed by a lightning bolt. 

The two killers realize the boy is still alive and start a forest fire then proceed to Ethan’s house thinking Connor is there. 

They chance upon Ethan’s wife, Allison (Medina Sneghore ), and threatens to kill her and but she knows survival skills and fights back, managing to escape from them.  

Ethan has seen what happened to Owen and returns home but the killers are there. They hold him captive and order him to be their guide in hunting down Connor. 

Hannah and Connor try to go to the town but the forest fire prevents them and they return to the tower where the killers get to track them down. 

The action reaches its edge-of-your-seat climax at this point in this old fashioned, straightforward thriller that don’t rely on futuristic or sci-fi effects. 

It’s also a welcome departure from the surfeit of superhero genre movies we’ve been getting so much of lately, even on TV. It works because of the relatable on screen connection between Jolie and the child actor who becomes her unexpected ward. 

Jolie’s character is no superhero like Lara Croft or Salt or Mrs. Smith, but she’s still an empowered female in her firefighting job that is largely dominated by males. 

As a smokejumper, she’s highly trained to be dropped off by parachute in wildfire locations as initial response to forest fires. 

It’s nice to see her back in the action saddle and also getting our sympathy as she becomes the unexpected protector of a boy in danger.

She and the boy undergo various challenging and life-threatening situations in the course of the narrative and Jolie is even hit by lightning, burning parts of her back and shoulder. 

The raging forest conflagration also tries to engulf them. By the time the movie ends, she’s all banged up, specially after Nicholas Hoult kept on hitting her face with his bare fist. 

She’s superbly supported by Finn Little as the poor helpless boy who has seen his mother die of cancer and his dad being shot to death. 

Another standout here as Medina Senghore as the fighting pregnant housewife who proves she’s not a mere damsel in distress as she certainly knows how to outwit the killers who are after her and her husband.

The film is a neat and tightly paced thriller at about an hour and a half, unlike some films that needlessly go on and on to overstay their welcome. 

The acting is solid and the fire scenes are particularly intense, eliciting fear that comes from seeing the landscape all around you burning and consuming everything in its path.