Time travel is all the rage in 2019. Blumhouse gives us its second attempt at it this year after Happy Death Day 2U with Don’t Let Go but this film doesn’t follow the same cues and is far more brooding and serious than either that or the real time-travel blockbuster of the year, Avengers: Endgame.
Detective Jack Radcliff (David Oyelowo) discovers the slain bodies of his niece Ashley (Storm Reid) and her parents in what looks like a gangland hit motivated by drugs. Torn apart by grief, Radcliff prays for a way to solve the case which he gets in the form of a phone call from Ashley in the past, days before her murder. With that line of communication, she and Jack piece together clues to find the killer and hopefully change the past.
This story is similar to Frequency (2000), a film written by current Warner Pictures chairman Toby Emmerich, and is as atypical a timey-wimey narrative as that was. Radcliff is in conversation with the past while all his investigating and beat pounding play out in his time.
The time travel is grounded, but if you’re looking for an explanation or cause, you won’t get one. As in the first Happy Death Day, there is an air of mystery hinting at Divine Intervention that keeps you guessing. In that sense, it’s a quasi-faith-based thriller.
Tonally, Don’t Let Go is more akin in its grimness and violence to more pessimistic pictures like The Butterfly Effect or The Caller. Jack manages to reset the timeline and twice is critically wounded by gunfire for his trouble. Changing things is the only way he stays out of the hospital, and a grave for that matter.
Also like Frequency, in which father and son characters work in tandem 30 years apart, Ashley’s efforts to make a break in the case take up a decent amount of time, allowing her character real depth and agency. She’s not just another victim and more than your average kid.
— Storm Reid (@stormreid) August 30, 2019
Storm Reid (A Wrinkle in Time) is one reason why this film works. She and her interplay with David Oyelowo provide the human centerpieces and both are fantastic at evoking strong emotions even when they are talking off-screen to one another, on the phone most of the time. Reid’s voice-over in some scenes is also good.
Although young, she handles herself well and has become a favorite of Blumhouse’s Jason Blum. Reid will appear next in his Invisible Man remake for Universal. She’s gearing up as well to join The Suicide Squad.
Don’t Let Go is an engaging thriller that breathes fresh life into the old premise of Butterfly Effect and Frequency. The issue is its Labor Day weekend release might keep it from finding an audience. It isn’t bad for the end of summer. You can do worse — such as 47 Meters Down Uncaged — or forgetting to charge your phone.
- David Oyelowo
- Storm Reid
- Holds interest
- Some murky cinematography
- Alfred Molina is kind of wasted
- The twist might be too cozy for most and the time loop is left with little explanation