Tag Archives: Charles Leavitt

Fire Starter

Those Who Wish Me Dead

by Hope Madden

Michael Koryta’s heart-thumping YA adventure tale Those Who Wish Me Dead comes to the big screen. Well, mainly—it’s also on HBO Max—but the mountainous, fiery, wooded adventure is better suited to the largest screen you can find.

Koryta himself adapted his novel, along with co-writers Charles Leavitt (not very good—Warcraft, Seventh Son, In the Heart of the Sea) and Taylor Sheridan (very good—Hell or High Water, Sicario).

It should even out.

Sheridan also directs, dropping a young boy (Finn Little) in a burning forest, hunted by two murderers (Nicholas Hoult and Aiden Gillen), with only Angelina Jolie to help.

She does have a way with children, though.

Jolie’s Hanna Faber is a damaged Hotshot (those firefighters who parachute into forest blazes). She failed her psych eval after those fatalities last season and now she’s stuck in a lonely fire lookout tower miles from anywhere with nothing to keep her company but her own haunted thoughts.

So what I’m saying is, Those Who Wish Me Dead is now about Hanna rather than being about the kid who is wished dead. I just want fans of the novel to be prepared for this.

It’s still a perfectly satisfying if not particularly inspired adventure tale.

Little delivers an emotional blow as the newly orphaned youth who’s trying to be brave, trying to be smart, and sincerely in need of a hug. The biggest issue is simply the way he becomes a side character in his own story.

He’s not as discarded as the couple who run the survival camp (Jon Bernthal and Medina Senghore – though the latter does look glorious riding horseback with her rifle through the flames).

The basic backstory does suit this cinematic vehicle, though, and Jolie proves a charismatic central figure who can sure take a beating. As the bad guys close in from one direction, the fire from the other, Sheridan and team build a perfectly reasonable and structurally sound thriller.

Performances are strong and locations are gorgeous, but Those Who Wish Me Dead doesn’t take a lot of risks and that’s unfortunate.