“Don’t Let Go” stars David Oyelowo, Storm Reid, Bryon Mann, Mykelti Williamson, Alfred Molina, and Brian Tyree Henry. Released on August 30, 2019, the film is about a detective who sets out to prevent his niece’s death.
The film is written and directed by Jacob Aaron Estes, who also directed “Mean Creek” and “The Details”. Another summer movie season is drawing to a close and, once again, we got a bunch of lesser-known films that are willing to draw in a crowd this weekend. Will I be able to look at them all? I highly doubt it since they didn’t capture my interest that much. Well, all except one. This latest thriller comes to us from BH Tilt, the multi-platform production company from Blumhouse Productions that’s responsible for developing low-budget films that range from suitable (“Sleight”, “Upgrade”) to just plain awful and forgettable. (“The Darkness”, “The Green Inferno”). They don’t make as much money as the ones from Blumhouse Productions, but considering their really small budgets, they’re quite successful in the company’s eyes, so they’re hoping that their streak continues with a thriller that deals with saving someone from the past. It’s time travel, but without the “travel” part. Based on the concept alone, is it worth checking out?
The story centers on Jack Radcliff (Oyelowo), a homicide detective who has a close relationship with his niece Ashley (Reid). However, that all ended in a blink of an eye when Jack finds his family, including Ashley, dead in their own home, sending Jack into a state of depression. He then gets an unexpected call from his dead niece, but it turns out that she is calling him from the past. Realizing that changing the events in her past affects his own time, Jack must work to prevent the incident from occurring once again in her timeline. If you think that you heard this scenario before, you’re not wrong. The film’s plot is similar to the 2000 sci-fi thriller, “Frequency”, which also involves a main character in the present using a certain type of communication device to try to prevent a family member’s death that occurred in the past. It’s pretty inevitable for some people to consider it as a modern take of that film or as a rip-off. But for what it’s worth, it did well in introducing this concept to the people who actually haven’t heard of “Frequency”. Unfortunately, it lacked a certain amount of jolt in its storytelling and its thrills to take this concept further. The film’s story focuses more on the dialogue-driven moments rather than the action moments, so unless you’re a fan of those types of films, you might find yourself a bit bored with this one. The good thing about the story was that it knew exactly what it wanted to be, which is a “whodunit” mystery thriller with a sci-fi twist. It had plenty of engaging moments in the mystery aspect. The thriller aspect? Ehhh…not so much. Aside from its third act, “Don’t Let Go” somehow struggled to balance the thrills with its dramatic moments, resulting in it being an underwhelming, yet well-crafted, experience that left me feeling a bit disappointed. It didn’t make me want to fall asleep, so that’s a good sign, but its minuscule amount of heart-pounding thrills, along with some formulaic elements and its inconsistent pacing, prevented me from sitting on the edge of my seat. The film’s only highlights that kept it from being a total disaster were the cast and Estes’ filmmaking style. David Oyelowo was solid in his role as Jack Radcliff and Storm Reid once again showed off her remarkable acting talents with ease as Ashley. These two characters alone were the real heart of the story, and the film did a really nice job at expressing that, although the emotional impact wasn’t strong enough to overshadow its flawed execution on its plot. I can also admit that Estes’ sense of style was effective for the most part when it comes to his direction and the cinematography. It didn’t actually make the film any better, but the way this style was handled was enough for me to give it another chance to live.
Overall, the cast and Estes’ vision were able to prevent “Don’t Let Go” from suffering an unfortunate demise, but that doesn’t mean they were able to make it more exciting. It had the right idea on what it wants to be, which should satisfy modern mystery fans, including my mother. However, the film didn’t have enough thrills and emotion to impress everyone outside of its target audience. Not a great way to end this year’s summer movie season, but not a bad one, either. I would recommend seeing this one at a matinee showing if you like these types of films.