Don't Let Go
Starring David Oyelowo, Storm Reid, Mykelti Williamson, Alfred Molina
Whatever “Mean Creek” director Jacob Estes was going for with “Don’t Let Go”, an experiment in “Memento” type writing structure, or a modern update of “Frequency”, it’s a spectacular failure. “Don’t Let Go’s” foundation of a cop talking with his dead niece on a cell phone to solve her murder, isn’t promising. “Don’t Let Go” requires more suspension of disbelief than most dramas, compounded with poor character development, resulting in a frustrating viewing experience. David Oyelowo (“Selma”) acts with all the convictions necessary to buy into his character, sadly it isn’t enough to overpower this convoluted story. “Don’t Let Go” reunites Oyelowo and Reid from “A Wrinkle in Time”, but the talented young actress can’t catch a break in the right movie.
Busy LAPD detective and a devoted uncle, Jack Radcliff (Oyelowo) has just received another call from his niece Ashley who needs a ride. While she explains her fathers forgetfulness, Jack wonders if his brother will ever get it together. Next day at work, another call from Ashley, thanking her uncle for the conversation he had with her dad. Jack’s too busy to really listen. The evening call from Ashley gets his attention, something is wrong, and he races over to their house to discover the most unimaginable. As he wrestles with loss, disbelief and anger, Jack is startled when he receives a call from Ashley. A prank, mistake, hoax? Jack begins his own investigation and uncovers a web of criminal activity. Ashley continues to call, existent only in the day of her death, which has now been over a week.
Every movie should have something to give it’s audience, and there are no takeaways here.
If you have seen the trailer or read the synopsis, you already know Reid’s character dies, the trigger for the remainder of the plot. Only three short scenes stand in the way of Ashley’s character development before her death. Who is this teenage girl who relies on her uncle so much, the script isn’t interested in that information. Nor does the script tell us anything about Jack Radcliff outside the obvious that he is a detective and an uncle. Details are not something writer Jacob Estes is interested in. So much of the script is spent trying to explain the weird time warp between present day, where Jack is alive and mourning, and the one where Ashley hasn’t died yet. No explanation is offered to how or why this is happening, and the time that’s spent with Jack’s reconciling the science fiction element is unsatisfactory.
Within the plot of a cop trying to work backwards in time to save his family via a magical cell phone . . . there are some suspenseful shootouts, dramatic discoveries and the suspense lies only with the puzzle that’s being constructed. The web only gets more tangled as the link to the past keeps changing, if Jack fails, events reset like “Groundhog Day”. Whether inspired by Christopher Nolan’s way of delivering “Memento” or the basic concept of one family member trying to save another in different dimensions like “Frequency”, Estes simply doesn’t have the skill to pull off whatever “Don’t Let Go” was supposed to be. Every movie should have something to give it’s audience, and there are no takeaways here.
Don’t Let Go is a train wreck of a motion picture.