My Tivo gave me a present. After I got it, it went through a stage of recording shows I had absolutely no interest in watching – Real Housewives, Ghost Adventures, 90 Day Fiance. I hadn’t even heard of that last one until it showed up in Tivo’s suggestions. About once a week I’d go through and delete all the recorded crap. But then it started recording movies, and because of it I found a small gem from 2019 that I’d missed in the theaters.
Don’t Let Go stars David Oyelowo as LAPD Detective Jack Ratcliff. The movie opens with him receiving a distress call from his niece Ashley (Storm Reid) that her parents hadn’t picked her up from the light rail station. Jack rescues her and buys her supper at a favorite restaurant, and later he talks to his brother Garrett (Brian Tyree Henry). Garrett had been mixed up with drugs along with facing mental health issues, but he’d turned his life around. A few days later, Ashley calls and thanks Jack, saying things were much better with her parents now. But then, a short while later, Jack answers a call from Ashley only to hear her in distress before the line goes dead. He rushes to his brother’s house and finds his sister-in-law and Garrett dead in what looks like a murder-suicide. Ashley is in the bathtub, also brutally murdered.
Jack’s partner, Bobby Owens (Mykelti Williamson), is assigned to investigate while the head of the detective bureau, Howard Keleshian (Alfred Molina), puts Jack on compassionate leave. To Jack, though, the scene seems staged, clearly framing his brother, but he doesn’t know how to figure out what happened. Then Jack’s phone rings, and it shows Ashley is calling him. He comes to realize that Ashley is talking to him from two weeks earlier – a couple of days before her death.
The movie, written and directed by Jacob Estes, contains echoes of Frequency in the plot. However, the vibe of Don’t Let Go is hard-boiled L.A. Noir. It has more in common with L.A. Confidential or Training Day than the other movie. While it has the usual convention of the time travel genre where a small change to the past alters the future, the compact time frame of the movie make the changes more subtle, with only Jack aware of thems. They also allow the plot to make shocking, lethal twists and turns.
Oyelowo was outstanding as Martin Luther King Jr in Selma, and he’d also starred a couple of years later with Rosamund Pike in a historical romance picture I thoroughly enjoyed, A United Kingdom. This time he’s cast in an action hero role, but he brings his signature intelligence to the part. This was Storm Reid’s follow-up to the debacle of A Wrinkle In Time, and she is compelling and winning as Ashley. Since then she’s done two limited series (“When They See Us” and “Euphoria”) and had a main supporting role in this year’s The Invisible Man. It appears that she will successfully navigate the transition from child to adult actor, which is never easy, and I look forward to watching her in future roles.
At 103 minutes, Don’t Let Go keeps a strong pace throughout. It also manages to resolve the sci-fi aspects of the plot in an unusual but effective way. It didn’t do well in its release, essentially making back its production cost, but if you’re looking for a thriller that manages to present a fresh story, check this movie out. Click below to see the trailer)