Angelina Jolie has made a face for cinema.
It’s those green eyes, which can go from expressing anger to imperceptible longing. It’s her famous pout, which can devastate vulgarities and compliments with equal confidence. But it is more than just its beauty. It’s her physicality, which is powerful in a way that belies the thinness of her frame, and the overwhelming burst of charisma she brings to the screen. But despite all her on-screen presence, Jolie doesn’t guarantee a good movie. For every movie of hers that I adore (like her director By the Sea), there are tons of others that don’t reach the level of her stardom or skill. It’s frustrating to see one of Hollywood’s most fascinating stars often cast in matte work. That’s why it was so exciting to see her get a good vehicle on the screen again.
When I got into Those Who Wish Me Dead, I was especially curious, especially considering Taylor Sheridan’s involvement as a co-writer and director. (The film was also written by Charles Leavitt and Michael Koryta, based on the latter’s book). Sheridan, the creator of the hit series Yellowstone, has been involved in work that sparks my interest, including as the writer of Sicario and Hell or High Water. But his first directing effort, Wind River, betrayed an uncomfortable racial politics in his choice to focus on white leads (in a movie about a reservation murder) and suggested nothing out of the ordinary about his visual and narrative perspective as a filmmaker. But those who wish me dead surprised me. The neo-western inflected work is a lean, compelling, action-packed shot of adrenaline that stands out in its aesthetic decisions and offers some extraordinarily fun twists from its actors. Most importantly, it proves once again why Jolie is a star. Some of the most poignant compositions in Those Who Wish Me Dead study the planes of this famous face and map out the ways in which desire, grief, and devilish destructiveness can communicate with clear sincerity.