Review of Those Who Wish Me Dead

"Those Who Wish Me Dead"
Still image from the trailer for Those Who Wish Me Dead.

A movie that features a smokejumper, Those Who Wish Me Dead, premiered today on HBO Max.

We asked Smokejumper Bro who appears frequently in the Wildfire Today comments sections if he would write a review of the movie. It is below. After that are a few comments from Bill about the movie.

Those Who Wish Me Dead is a film about Hannah (Angelina Jolie), a smokejumper trying to piece her life back together after tragedy strikes on a fire the year before. She is floundering through life until a family who knew too much is on the run from hitmen. Their paths cross on the Bitterroot National Forest in Montana, and as one family’s life is being ripped apart, Hannah finds a new purpose and a reason to start living again.

This movie is a great addition to the wildfire canon that has been produced in Hollywood recently. It feels more like a big-budget thriller with A-list actors than a streaming steamer. Of course, the fire behavior is a little dramatic, the goggles are comical, and maybe the HALO Smokejumping operations are a bit much, but when a smokejumper faceplants on landing, it brought it back home for me. Overall, it doesn’t take too large of a leap to make the movie feel realistic, even for firefighters.

Angelina Jolie gives a great performance, and she really fits the smokejumper role. She’s kind of crazy and wild, yet professional and dialed-in when needed. When it really matters, people are lucky to have her around.

Jon Bernthal (Walking Dead) is excellent as a local sheriff’s deputy and Aidan Gillen (Game of Thrones) is perfect in his role as the not-entirely-emotionless assassin.

What really sets this film apart from other wildland firefighter films is Hannah’s story. She’s suffering a mental health crisis from PTSD developed on the job. Without treatment, she pursues dangerous, risky behavior that is all too common amongst our colleagues. Death-defying stunts and alcoholism, coupled with the US Forest Service ignoring and isolating her during her crisis really makes this movie the most realistic, and even brought me to shed a few tears in my early morning viewing. It may not have been intentional, but the movie is more about mental health than anything else, and the need to address it.

I’d say it’s my favorite fictional wildfire film. Definitely worth putting the phone down and watching the film.

Smokejumper Bro Rating **** 4/5

(end of review)

Excellent review by Smokejumper Bro!

Firefighters, of course, will be able to nitpick about things like fire behavior and the use of breathing apparatus, and they might laugh at a lighthearted moment about MREs.

I agree with Bro —  Ms. Jolie is a very good actor and pulled it off. I could almost visualize her as a smokejumper. Almost.

The credits included the fact that it was filmed in New Mexico, the same state where much of “Only the Brave” was made.

It is very difficult for movie makers to make wildfire flames look realistic, and that is apparently one of the reasons why they had about 40 Visual Effects Artists assigned to the project.

The film is entertaining and worth seeing.

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Author: Bill Gabbert

After working full time in wildland fire for 33 years, he continues to learn, and strives to be a Student of Fire.

11 thoughts on “Review of Those Who Wish Me Dead”

  1. C-R-I-N-G-E

    Unlike the very well made ‘Only The Brave’, I didn’t see any qualified advisors listed in the credits and it shows throughout; from small oversights (blisters from what look like footlocker boots on a seasoned professional?) to baffling faux-pas (any scene with lightning). The casting, despite being riddled with excellent actors, doesn’t help either. While not all female firefighters are built like decathaletes its hard to ever really believe the awkward and waifish Jolie could pass a fitness test, let alone pack 100+ pounds out of the wilderness. Outside perhaps the impressively played sheriff it never felt like any rural Montana town i’ve known. Like New Yorkers that say y’all, the film tries cloak itself in the cachet of the mountain west but never bothers to show it much respect let alone learn much from it. The endless stream of nonsequiturs and the lopsided focus on the gruff is not only distracting but leaves you with the feeling that the only interest in the profession and the setting is to serve as contrivance for some urbanites shallow fantasies about western escapism.

  2. I was a jumper for 8 years. This was a horrible movie. It cartoonishly portrayed the jumper culture. Angelina Jolie was a poor substitute for the female jumpers I knew: Diane Price, Kim Maynard, Deanne Schumann. I don’t know “Smokejumper Bro” background but this is just another fantasy by Hollywood that dishonors the profession. Why don’t screenwriters do a little research before they turn out this stupidity?

    1. This is the comment I was looking for. I knew when I saw Angelina Jolie cast as a jumper I had no intention of watching this. I’m not a jumper but I work around them alot, mostly giving them rides off the hill in a rotorwing…ha! Had my hopes up for a minute, but these movies never fail to disappoint.

  3. Maybe I am just showing my age… My favorite is still the movie “Always” bombers vs jumpers but I married one every bit as beautiful and after 37 years she has stood by me day and many a very long night.

  4. I expected a much more realistic movie from Taylor Sheridan. Plus, it left many holes in the overall story.
    BUT, the main part of the story is how the FS failed this female firefighter, that part is very realistic, just as they fail ALL of their firefighters !
    For that Mr. Sheridan, you scored a home run in my book, Thank You !!!!

  5. We liked both these movies, Sicario and Sicario 2, as well as Hell or High Water directed by Taylor Sheridan, whose screenplays for “Sicario” and “Hell or High Water”. We look forward to watching it. Thanks for the review Smokejumper Bro and Bill. Popcorn is popping.

  6. Thanks for the review. The book was very good but I was on the fence about the movie but now will check in out.


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