Don't Let Go
Jacob Estes' Don't Let Go is a time-traveling whodunit that goes one twist too far. Still, the film exceeds because of Estes' ability to blend the high concept with a cast of solid performers, including stars David Oyelowo and Storm Reid.
Director Jacob Estes and producer Jason Blum‘s Don’t Let Go is an unusual choice for an end-of-the-summer thriller, captivating audiences on its high concept, which blends together sci-fi with your standard whodunit cop drama, starring David Oyelowo and Storm Reid. Don’t Let Go mostly delivers on its promises, giving viewers something to clutch their seat for until the very end, despite overdrawing on the suspense with a reveal that goes one or two twists too far to try and hit home. Still, the sci-fi/drama hybrid excels, because of its core relationships, anchored down by Oyelowo and Reid in too spectacular of fashion.
Don’t Let Go follows good cop and even better uncle Jack (David Oyelowo) as he cracks the hardest case of his life, the death of his brother, his niece (Storm Reid) and sister-in-law. See, Jack has been the fatherly figure for his niece Ashley pretty much since forever, or at least for as long as his brother has been getting involved with drugs and drug dealers. He’s always been the one to pick her up from the movies after both parents no-showed and to take her out for some ice cream or dinner when everyone else seems to continue to let her down.
Jack begins his investigation with a bottle of alcohol and a belly full of regrets. She attempted to call him earlier before she was killed, but he was too busy with work to pay attention and now he can’t live with the fact that he let her down for the last time.
But then everything changes. He gets a call from Ashley’s phone, somehow, creating a link to his past — to a world where Ashley is still alive and not yet to the day of her murder.
This allows Jack to help investigate Ashley’s murder and piece together the puzzle that doesn’t quite make sense.
Director Jacob Estes brings Don’t Let Go to life, based on a script that he also wrote, with the story co-written by Drew Daywalt. And for the most part, Don’t Let Go functions efficiently as a film that slickly blends together several elements to make for a thriller that’s unique in its own right, bouncing back-and-forth through time as Jack desperately tries to solve the mystery of the only person that brings him joy in life, with the clock constantly ticking.
I can see and appreciate why Jason Blum helped champion this film to theaters. It was made on the cheap end and presents a story that’s original and full of vision. Director Jacob Estes uses interesting transitions to represent different moments in time, while stars David Oyelowo and Storm Reid give the film a core relationship that’s worth investing in. Oyelowo gives such a heartfelt and reliable performance that really makes him shine and makes me wish he was given leading roles in more films, while Storm Reid‘s tender and hopeful Ashley makes the fight all the more worth it.
The two really do save the film from its shortcomings, which include a few twists that are laughably predictable and kind of disappointing. I’ve been told the film was recut several times after it debuted earlier this year at a film festival and while I will say this version is mostly acceptable, I do feel that there might be a better version of it somewhere in the cutting room.
Moments of the film’s closing minutes are rushed and pieced together in a way that doesn’t feel whole in vision or delivery. That doesn’t mean Estes has completely fumbled here as a writer/director, but it does show inconsistencies in an otherwise consistent story that I wanted to love, but came out liking.
I still thoroughly enjoyed Don’t Let Go and feel that it was a worthwhile trip to the theater, but just released at an odd time. Its performances and overall production value are impressive, given how much it was made for and how it came out of nowhere — the first trailer I saw for this was exactly two weeks ago, which surprised me, considering how most movies are promoted endlessly for months before release.
Don’t Let Go fits in nicely next to films like Happy Death Day and The Butterfly Effect. While those films might stick their landing much better than this one, I still credit director Jacob Estes for giving us something unique and original, even if the ending leans a bit too far on cliche.
If you’re in the mood for a film that isn’t afraid to blend together genres in hopes of making for a memorable part time travel, part detective hybrid that’s a little rough around the edges, but ambitious in its execution, then give Don’t Let Go a try.