Salty Air

Play It Again, Tim – Gillen in for the kill in Jolie thriller

Tim Miller
Written by Tim Miller

Aidan Gillen probably is best known as Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish from “Game of Thrones.”

There’s a reason for that.

Calculating and ruthless, brainy brothel owner Baelish used his keen intelligence to manipulate his way into power. Like Hannibal Lecter, Baelish wasn’t physically imposing, yet he created tension every time he was on the screen because you knew he was always scheming and always ready to strike at any moment.

Aidan Those Who Wish Me Dead

Aidan Gillen makes an intimidating villain in “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” (Warner Bros.)

It takes a special actor to conjure up that brand of intimidation, and Gillen is just that kind. Whether the Irish Gillen is playing a cynical doctor (“Calvary”) or a gypsy leader (“Peaky Blinders”), you can always see the wheels turning. There’s always a keen mind at play.

So even though the thriller “Those Who Wish Me Dead” (R, 100 minutes, in theaters and on HBO Max) stars Angelina Jolie, and is clearly a vehicle for her, and she’s good in it, Gillen’s the one who makes the greatest impact in the movie. He plays a contract killer who, along with his partner (Nicholas Hoult), is tracking a young teen to dispose of him (never mind why). Generally, the kind of assassin Gillen plays is a stock character, but he makes the role something more, because this killer is so smart, and so sinister. (Hoult complements Gillen’s character well by playing a more mechanical hitman.)

Angelina Those Who Wish Me Dead

Angelina Jolie plays a “smoke jumper” in “Those Who Wish Me Dead.” (Warner Bros.)

Jolie plays Hannah Faber, a “smoke jumper,” one of a team that parachutes into harm’s way to fight forest fires in the wilds of Montana. This type of work takes a special kind of daredevil, and Hannah fits right in, though she’s currently suffering tremendous guilt because she miscalculated the wind direction of a recent blaze and was unable to save the lives of three youths.

She gets an unexpected — unexpected for her, not for us — chance to redeem herself by saving the kid (Finn Little). And while she tries to save the boy from the baddies, she also must contend with — surprise! — another raging fire.

It’s all fairly standard, and predictable, stuff, including Hannah’s guilt-induced flashbacks. But the film, directed by Taylor Sheridan (“Wind River”), does have its virtues: suspenseful action; not one, but two badass female characters (Hannah and a local sheriff’s pregnant wife, played by Medina Senghore); a strong sense of setting; and Jolie’s convincing work as a multi-layered character who’s tough, but with a good heart.

Plus, Gillen is just so much fun to watch. *** (out of four)

** Click here for  Tim Miller’s previous movie columns for Cape Cod Wave **

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Tim Miller is a Cape-based member of the Boston Society of Film Critics. He and music producer Tony Raine host “Tim ’n’ Tony’s Rock ’n’ Pop Show” from midnight to 3 a.m. Sunday nights/Monday mornings on WOMR (92.1-FM), WFMR (91.3-FM) and (archived shows at He also teaches film at Cape Cod Community College in West Barnstable. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or follow him onTwitter @TimMillerCritic. Or you can ignore him completely.

About the author

Tim Miller

Tim Miller, a member of the Boston Society of Film Critics, was the Cape Cod Times film critic for nearly 36 years. A Detroit native (and hardcore Tigers fan), he’s been obsessed with movies since skipping school in 1962 to see “Lawrence of Arabia” with his parents when he was 7. Miller earned his bachelor’s degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor and his master’s from Suffolk University, where he taught film and journalism for 10 years. He continues to teach film at Curry College and Cape Cod Community College. He is a juror each year for the short-film competition of the Martha’s Vineyard International Film Festival, has moderated several panel discussions at the Woods Hole Film Festival and frequently is heard as a guest on Cape & Islands NPR station WCAI. His work appeared as a chapter in the book “John Sayles: Interviews.” His favorite movie is Cameron Crowe's “Almost Famous” – because it makes him feel good to be alive.

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