Despite a creative time traveling twist, Don’t Let Go refuses to lose its grip on all of the standard murder mystery cliches.
What would you do if given a second chance to prevent a loved one from dying? That’s the scenario presented to police detective Jack (David Oyelowo (The Cloverfield Paradox) after his brother’s family is killed in what’s being written off as a murder-suicide. The death of his niece, Ashley (Storm Reid, A Wrinkle in Time) hits Jack the hardest as he was basically her surrogate father while Jack’s brother (Brian Tyree Henry, If Beale Street Could Talk) tried to get on the straight and narrow following a prison stint.
With the help of his partner Billy (Mykelti Williamson, Heat) and supervisor (Alfred Molina, Spider-Man 2), Jack tries to crack the real mystery of the case and figure out why his family was targeted. Don’t Let Go finds its unique space in the mystery murder genre when Jack starts getting phone calls from Ashley.
After realizing he’s not going crazy, Jack starts to understand Ashley is calling from his past and he’s still got time to save his family from getting killed.
Director/Screenwriter Jacob Estes (The Details) telegraphs the guilty party so obviously that it seems like a fake out. It’s one of those crime mystery 101 tropes that’s so overdone most screenwriters use it now to throw off more suspicious viewers. That tends to result in convoluted twists that lack impact, but that would have been preferred in this case.
Around the midway point, Estes throws in another useful twist that the film would have benefited from him utilizing more than once. It’s the kind of game changer a film of this nature needed to not write off its gimmick as a one time fluke. At 103 minutes the film feels longer than it should thanks to Estes not doing enough with the premise and setting the characters up on a path to fail.
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Oyelowo is a high quality actor who perhaps is a little too willing to take roles that don’t best showcase his talents. He’s too good for this kind of silly thriller as he gives the film more credibility than it deserves. Reid continues to show a greater range in her performances beyond her age and she delivers strong. Henry doesn’t get nearly enough screen time in an undeveloped role that benefits more from his name value than anything included in the script.
Estes doesn’t do Jack or Ashley many favors with increasingly frustrating decisions that defy common sense. After Jack gets shot in a drive-by his immediate reaction is not to go to the emergency room, but instead go to the police evidence room to find a file. And when he predictably passes out he calls Ashley. Sure it makes for a dramatic moment, but the illogical route Estes took to get there robs the scene of any credibility something that becomes rarer as the film nears its home stretch.
The final act is easily the film’s biggest failing as the big reveal underwhelms and the prolonged chase sequence also skates around common sense and basic communication skills. Don’t Let Go could have been far more enjoyable if it took a more serious approach to the Happy Death Day formula. That franchise proves a little time traveling death can be fun while this just makes for a frustrating snoozer.