There are several effective action sequences, the best showing the terrifying way that fires actually run, and pick up speed, particularly on slopes of land, sending Hannah and Connor running for their lives. More could be made of Hannah’s competence at her job, and more could be made of the smoke jumpers’ special capabilities and skills, for audience members who aren’t aware of it. Kathryn Bigelow pulls off this complicated feat in films like “The Hurt Locker” and “Zero Dark Thirty,” and, in another kind of movie, in “Point Break,” where what really engages Bigelow is not character so much as the jobs that people do, and how those jobs create their own culture, requiring personality types who don’t really fit into “normal” life. This is the world of “Those Who Wish Me Dead,” but it’s sketched-in rather than explored.
There was a very interesting period in the early-to-mid 2000s when Angelina Jolie alternated between serious dramas and action movies, attracting the widest of audiences, and dominating the industry cross-genres in a way few actresses have pulled off (Sigourney Weaver comes to mind as a possible equivalent). Jolie’s star power is a force of nature, one she is able to use to great effect. I was practically alone in falling in love with “By the Sea,” the film she wrote and directed, a throwback to the glamorous disaffected European dramas of the 1960s and 1970s, directed by people like Michelangelo Antonioni, or Jean-Luc Godard’s “Contempt,” a clear precursor for “By the Sea.” In it, Jolie indulged her penchant (and gift) for melodrama, as well as glamorous and yet the-real-deal suffering, putting her in the company of movie goddesses of yore, like Elizabeth Taylor or Monica Vitti. Jolie can be a divisive figure, as most individualists are, and therefore it’s always interesting to see the projects she lends her talents to. It’s been some years since Jolie did an action movie, and she carries the center of “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” Unfortunately, it’s a film with no real center.
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