Arts

Film review: Don't Let Go a solid foray into sci-fi suspense

David Oyelowo plays a detective investigating the deaths of members of his own family in time-bending thriller Don't Let Go. Damon Smith gives his verdict

David Oyelowo and Storm Reid in Don’t Let Go

A GRIEF-stricken homicide detective warps the linear flow of time to solve his brother's murder suicide in Jacob Aaron Estes's confidently executed thriller.

Bolted together with familiar genre tropes, Don't Let Go is anchored by compelling performances from English-born actor David Oyelowo as the crusading cop and 16-year-old Storm Reid as his plucky niece, who is blissfully unaware of her grisly destiny.

Estes's script eschews deep, metaphysical discourse about fate to calmly explain every narrative twist, hand-holding the audience so no-one gets left behind making sense of the film's gnarly logic.

The writer-director intentionally obscures key facts until a breathless final act when a mosaic of flashbacks and cross-cuts between interconnected time frames neatly slots into place the pieces of the puzzle.

Cause and effect ripples a la Back To The Future are clearly telegraphed, propelling the emotionally bruised lead character to the brink of a nervous breakdown as he bears the burden of manipulating events in the near past.

Tension is curiously absent from the second half, given the perilously high stakes for the characters, and supporting cast including Alfred Molina are merely servants to a well-oiled plot.

On June 28, Los Angeles police detective Jack Radcliff (Oyelowo) receives a muffled telephone call from his teenage niece, Ashley (Reid). The conversation is abruptly cut short and when Jack returns the call, he is diverted to her voicemail.

That night the cop pays an impromptu visit to Ashley and finds his brother Garret (Brian Tyree Henry), sister-in-law Susan (Shinelle Azoroh), his niece and the family's dog shot dead. Evidence at the scene suggests Garret murdered the family in a drug-fuelled haze then turned the gun on himself.

"I pray to undo it," Jack whimpers to detective partner Bobby (Mykelti Williamson) after the funeral. "I pray God will give me a second chance."

The universe answers and Jack receives a call to his mobile a few days later from Ashley. The voice on the other end of the line is apparently his niece and she is alive and well. Jack fears he is suffering delusions and he takes temporary leave at the behest of his concerned boss (Molina).

However, Ashley's calls to his mobile continue and as Jack converses with the teenager, he surmises that she is talking to him from a few days before the massacre.

Without alarming his niece and tipping her off to her horrific near future, Jack makes Ashley an unwitting accomplice in his investigation.

Don't Let Go is a solid foray into sci-fi suspense that doesn't clearly distinguish itself from countless other mind-bending mysteries.

Oyelowo's befuddled hero remains a blank slate, apparently without a backstory or relatable personality traits other than being a slave to his police badge.

The luminous Reid tugs heartstrings in tear-stained close-up while Molina chews on meagre scraps in a perfunctory supporting role.

DON'T LET GO (15, 104 mins) Thriller/Sci-Fi/Action. David Oyelowo, Storm Reid, Alfred Molina, Brian Tyree Henry, Shinelle Azoroh, Mykelti Williamson. Director: Jacob Estes

RATING: 5.5/10

Released: September 27 (UK & Ireland, selected cinemas)

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