Updated: Mar 1, 2020
Cell phones take one step beyond in the new movie "Don't Let Go." Blending a "Twilight Zone" mentality with police procedural elements, the story uses a time-bending gimmick to help a police officer solve the murder of his niece. A time-travel component to cell service requires suspension of belief, but those of us who frequently complain about our phones having minds of their own might go along with the idea.
Plus, excellent acting helps sell the premise. David Oyelowo, a fine Martin Luther King in the movie "Selma," holds the screen with magnetism and charisma that go beyond training. The same holds true for his co-star Storm Reid, who made a splash with "A Wrinkle in Time." Since his story twists logic, writer-director Jacob Estes made the right decision by putting the bulk of his budget toward an experienced cast of excellent actors since the rest of the film requires little in the way of massive expenditures.
Despite its fantasy elements, Don't Let Go needs few expensive special effects, relying instead on a pulsing camera and noise to relay its time travel component. A modern day setting around generic Los Angeles filming zones makes filming much easier than in exotic locations, and the director uses only basic shots rather than flashy cinematography. A hand-held camera captures much of the action, without memorable set ups or lighting. This lets writer-director Estes emphasize his story, which features the ever-intriguing premise of letting someone re-invent the future by changing the past.
Hey, that notion keeps working for "The Terminator" movies plus countless others like "Back to the Future." The mystery angle in "Don't Let Go" also resembles a bit of the outstanding film Memento, but without that movie's truly inventive flair. Borrowing from so many other stories makes "Don't Let Go" fairly predictable, though the cell-phone concept proves alluring enough to grab attention. Maintaining that attention comes from actors Oyelowo, Reid, and the rest of the cast members, who never let on that "Don't Let Go" lacks any real credibility.
This review was originally aired on 9/12/2019.
You can listen to it online at https://www.kunr.org/post/dont-let-go#stream/0