Don’t Let Go is a movie about a lot of things. There’s grief, mystery, second chances, and family drama all wrapped into one film. Unfortunately, the film doesn’t handle any of those subjects in a meaningful way.
The plot revolves around Jack (David Oyelowo), a detective that may or may not be good at his job (more on that later). After his niece (played by Storm Reid), dies in a murder, Jack literally asks God for a second chance. Guess who answers the call (or makes the call)? That’s right; Jack is granted his second chance when his niece calls him from two weeks in the past.
Jack spends 30 seconds wondering if he’s crazy but is 100% confident that 1) It is his niece. 2) This is some time travel situation. 3) He’s definitely not crazy and can stop the murders. Now, Jack is in a race against time to use evidence from the case, and help from past-niece, to solve her murder before it happens.
As a Doctor Who fan, I know time isn’t linear. It can be timey-winey or whatever kind of crazy time loop the film establishes. From Terminator to Edge of Tomorrow, film has used time loops used in so many different ways. Even if “movie science” is used to explain it, the time jumps make sense if they fit the rules of the film.
In Don’t Let Go, none of the time stuff makes sense. The film originally starts with two timelines – there’s the Murder Timeline and the Two Weeks Ago Timeline. At some point it’s unclear if Jack dies or but he awakens in a car in what seems to be a different timeline. It’s never explained, yet he has all the memories from the previous two timelines. So…..there’s a third timeline? Is Jack a immortal? None it makes sense because the film never explains it. The film could’ve used a brief scene with Jack trying to figure out the timelines so the film could establish its time travel rules.
Even if the messy time travel stuff could be forgiven, the third act twist is so obnoxiously obvious, it’s comical. Not only does it feel shoehorned in, it makes Jack look like the world’s worst detective. There’s no other explanation that makes sense other than Jack is terrible at his job and should’ve been fired a long time ago.
Let’s say the two previous sins can be forgiven, the final sin can’t be. The final nail in the coffin is not using Brian Tyree Henry and all of his abilities. BTH maybe has one or two scenes. He’s great in them, but he doesn’t get enough screen time. You know who gets a lot of screen time? Mykelti Williamson. Williamson is great but if the film switched him and BTH’s characters, it would be infinitely better, even with its other issues.
David Oyelowo does a fine job and has great chemistry with Storm Reid. The story isn’t strong enough to support what the two leads are trying to accomplish.
One unintentionally funny thing is all the faces Oyelowo makes. He has so many. There’s “I just saw dead body”, “I think I’m dying”, “Wait, what?”, “Is this a butterfly effect or am I having a seizure”, and “Is that my dead niece calling me?”. All of the faces are sooooooo good.
The concept of Don’t Let Go is solid and the actors do the best with that they have. The film would’ve been better as a short film or Twilight Zone episode. The script never tries to explain anything because the film’s not interested in telling a compelling thriller. Most of the plot is a race to the finish line. Everything that happens services the final act and its big reveal. Sadly, neither of them are worth the journey.