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– by Daniel Tafoya

In the future, Detective Jack Radcliff tries to save his niece from dying, in the past, in the new thriller Don’t Let Go. That may sound confusing in print but onscreen, this film’s wild premise, combined with plenty of twists and turns, makes plenty of sense and causes a whole heck of a lot of nail biting tension.

David Oyelowo is Jack, a Los Angeles cop, who has a special kinship with his niece Ashley, played by Storm Reid. His brother though, is a former drug dealer, and it is because of this past that he and his wife and daughter are murdered. Jack is heartbroken over this loss, but soon after receives an unbelieveable phone call. It is from his dead niece, and what makes it even more incredible is she is calling from three days before her death. Jack is skeptical at first but eventually comes to accept this reality, working diligently with his niece to try to solve her murder before it happens in her timeline. He must contend with shady cops, gun toting criminals and a few brushes with death himself, if he is to get to the bottom of this mystery.

David Oyelowo shines in the lead here, giving the best performance I’ve seen from him since Selma. He is an everyman cop, with a loving relationship with his pride and joy, his niece, complicated by his brother and his past misdeeds. Oyelowo is tasked with going through the full range of emotions on his quest to solve his family’s murder, and he knocks this performance out of the park. He makes Jack experiences and feelings so relatable, it’s hard not to get swept up wholly by the film.

Storm Reid, known to audiences from Euphoria and A Wrinkle in Time, also excels in her role as Ashley. She is a smart, brave kid who does all she can to help her uncle, even while not knowing what her fate ultimately is. She has love and faith in him, which the viewer hopes will ultimately pay off in her survival.

Also of note in the cast are Mykelti Williamson (Forrest Gump) and Alfred Molina as Jack’s partner and captain, respectively. Suspicions abound throughout the movie about whether either or both are somehow involved in the murders or they are actually on the up and up. They both play that conundrum well, at times appearing trustworthy and benign, and at others coming off threatening and suspicious.

Director Jacob Aaron Estes does a smash up job at the reins of this film. Making good on the promise of his feature debut, 2004’s Mean Creek, he capably guides his talented cast through the complicated timeline and all of the questions it raises. All the while, he ratchets up the tension and unease, leaving the viewer wondering when things will all come falling down for our leads. It is quite masterful work on his part and cannot be praised enough.

Don’t Let Go is a great surprise, delivering a crack thriller to audiences in these late days of summer. Seek it out in theaters or you might miss out one of the best moviegoing experiences to be had in recent months.

Recommended if you liked: Frequency, Looper, Source Code

FINAL GRADE: A

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