There are an abundance of sci-fi dramas and supernatural mysteries to go around, but rarely are they as ambitious and electrifying as Don’t Let Go. The Blumhouse Productions film is an eclectic mashup of genres that takes the audience on a twisted, time-travel mystery involving corruption and family drama.
Written and directed by Jacob Estes, Don’t Let Go follows Jack Radcliffe (David Oyelowo), a Los Angeles detective who is married to his work, but always makes the time to hang out with his niece Ashley (Storm Reid).
Things take a tragic turn after Ashley and the rest of her family are murdered, leaving Jack reeling. He’s shocked and confused when he receives a phone call from his not-so-dead niece two weeks later, and Jack quickly realizes that she’s somehow calling him from right before her death. With so little time left on the clock, Jack enlists Ashley’s help to find her killer and save her life before it’s too late.
The movie was released in August 2019, receiving middling reviews. However, Don't Let Go is an engaging, thrilling, and smartly conceptualized film that is wholly underappreciated.
Don't Let Go isn't interested in delving into scientific explanations to justify its time loop plot or its supernatural reasoning. Rather, the film does well to pull its story together — despite its low budget — fueled by powerful performances. Thankfully, Don't Let Go doesn't rely on gimmicks, like so many other modern low-budget horror movies.
Don’t Let Go is a mixture of procedural drama and family sci-fi pillars, but what really sets it apart are the stakes. Jack cares deeply about solving the case because he loves his niece and is desperate to save her. The intimacy is inherent in the film’s style, which zooms in on Jack and Ashley’s bond. Most of their interactions occur over the phone, but the actors’ performances, chemistry, and directorial choices allow for their closeness to shine through.
Estes also employs the use of close-up shots and some shaky camera work to hammer home the urgency and emotion the characters are feeling. Meanwhile, the film’s faded colors and use of small spaces give off a horror-esque vibe that makes the film all the more harrowing to watch.
A big part of what Don’t Let Go does best is juxtaposing real-life horror with that of fiction, which makes for a more effective and emotional story. Jack understands that he only gets so many chances before Ashley is gone for good and that alone begins to change his perspective on the things he's come to rely on, including his job. It's only when the investigation comes into sharper focus do Jack's efforts really begin take shape.
The time loop trope has been used since Groundhog Day, but its place in Don’t Let Go allows for Jack to figure out a number of clues that would have otherwise been dismissed by a corrupt police department.
While Don't Let Go doesn’t dig too deeply into police corruption, it does touch upon the idea of who is considered a “good guy” and how easily an authority figure can get away with anything if the blame is shifted and the narrative changed. In that vein, Don’t Let Go understands that justice and the outcome of someone’s life hinges on discovering the truth.
Don’t Let Go isn’t as readily available on streaming as other movies and requires a Cinemax add-on for Hulu and Amazon. However, it’s definitely worth getting a seven-day free trial to watch it.