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New Release Review - DON'T LET GO

don't let go review
A detective attempts to prevent his niece's murder...even though it's already happened.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Jacob Estes

Starring: David Oyelowo, Storm Reid, Byron Mann, Alfred Molina, Brian Tyree Henry, Mykelti Williamson, Shinelle Azoroh

don't let go poster


We've had a '70s revival, an '80s revival, and a '90s revival, but it's difficult to imagine a '00s revival. The noughties is a curiously indistinct decade, one in which cultural movements took a backseat to technological advances, a decade defined by the gadgets we used rather than the clothes we wore, or the music we listened to, and certainly not by the movies we watched. The noughties was, to put it mildly, a bloody awful time for cinema, and were I to make a Top 100 movies of the 21st century list, I suspect no more than a dozen movies released in the century's first 10 years would make the cut.

don't let go review

Writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes' patience testing supernatural thriller Don't Let Go plays like a cinematic refugee from the noughties, combining two plot elements that were oddly popular in that decade. From the likes of Frequency and White Noise it borrows the idea of a protagonist communicating with a dead relative from beyond the grave, while it also features that messy jumble of Groundhog Day time loops and future premonitions as seen in movies like Next and Deja Vu. And it's every bit as terrible as its '00s predecessors.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - The Goldfinch ]

Jack Radcliff (David Oyelowo) is an LA detective who always makes time for his niece, Ashley (Storm Reid), giving her rides home when her neglectful parents forget about her and generally providing her with a shoulder to lean on. One evening Jack calls over to Ashley's house, planning to have a stern word with his feckless brother about his parenting skills, but instead finds Ashley and her parents have been gunned down. The following day a distraught Jack receives a call from Ashley's cellphone number. It turns out Ashley is calling him from five days before her murder. Can Jack, from his own advanced timeline, retroactively prevent his niece's murder?

don't let go review

It's certainly an intriguing premise, but one that requires far more attentive and airtight plotting than what's knocked out by Estes here. When done well, as in Back to the Future, twisty time travel narratives can be thoroughly gripping, but when rendered in the haphazard fashion of Don't Let Go, they quickly begin to aggravate the viewer with plot inconsistencies. Don't Let Go is riddled with plotholes and baffling character decisions. We're never given an explanation as to why, once he has convinced Ashley that he's communicating with her from the future (in a clever little moment involving chewing gum under a diner booth table), Jack doesn't simply instruct her to contact his past self for help. At one point there's a confusing time jump where Jack seems to enter a new timeline, yet things he had Ashley do in the other timeline, like spraying an 'X' on a garage door, are still present in this new timeline.

[ READ MORE: New Release Review - The Last Tree ]

By the midway point of Don't Let Go you'll likely have developed a migraine from trying to make sense of its nonsensical plotting. What makes it all the worse is that Oyelowo, Reid and supporting actors like Mykelti Williamson and Alfred Molina all deliver fully committed performances that only serve to underline how poorly written the movie they're trying so hard to sell really is. Oyelowo in particular is a far too serious actor for what is essentially a Nicolas Cage thriller, sorely lacking the manic energy Cage might have brought to this.

don't let go review

Despite it messy and complex plot, Don't Let Go is thuddingly predictable. If you haven't figured out who the killer is within the first 20 minutes you've probably never seen a police thriller before. While we await the inevitable reveal we're forced to endure a lifeless movie that psychologically wears you down with both its illogical plot and its gloomy visuals. Cinematographer Sharone Meir casts a visually disgusting sickly green pall over the film, and by the seventh time you've been shown a teenage girl's bloodied corpse you might be reaching for the vomit bag. Don't Let Go boasts no thrills, no frills, no chills, but it may leave you a little green around the gills.

Don't Let Go is in UK/ROI cinemas September 27th.


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