This review is of the edited TV-14 version of the film. All thoughts below should be addressed as such as a review of the unedited version would be more negative
Time for a movie with a very clear title and message. The whole thing is about never letting go, sometimes you just have to keep on something even when everyone tells you it’s time to move on. When time travel is a concern, moving on is absolutely the last thing you want to do. (Looking at you Flash!) The movie has a fun premise and some good ideas here. It’s very close to being a winning movie but makes one mistake that puts it in the middle of the pack instead of rising above it.
The movie starts with Jack receiving a call from his niece Ashley since her father forgot to pick her up again. He’s always glad to help out though and the two have always had a good relationship. Well, one day she calls him and sounds distressed before the call ends. He runs over and she has been murdered along with her parents. The crime scene indicates that her father murdered her and the mother before destroying himself. Jack knows that he did suffer from being bipolar and also had some drug related incident s in the past but something about this still isn’t sitting right with him. That’s when he gets a call from Ashley and for her it is still a week before the murder. He’s not sure how this happened but he now has a second chance to make things right and keep her safe. Of course there are 3 factors limiting this from being a super easy mission.
1: He can only speak to her over the phone so he can’t physically run to her house to help out. 2. He can’t call her so he has to wait for Ashley to call him. 3. The Jack of the past timeline doesn’t know what’s going on so he needs to keep Ashley from seeing him or she may find the whole situation crazy and not believe him. If he loses her trust at any point then the whole mission is a wash. Will he be able to pull this off and save her life or is the film going to take the awful route that “The past cannot be changed” route?
Well, I can say from the jump that the past can be changed here. After all, there wouldn’t be much of a movie if he couldn’t have any impact right? Definitely a good thing since I never really bought into that approach all that much. If time travel does exist then it stands to reason that you can change anything. That’s a full stop right there, you can’t have one concept without the other and this film embraces it. Without talking about the film too much yet, lets talk about the time travel rules for this movie.
So what happens in the past directly alters the future. So for example if Jack tells Ashley to paint a circle in the back of a house, Jack will suddenly experience a ton of seizures with red lights and then it appears in the present. This one is assuming that time goes linearly which I actually prefer. In some titles you may run into the issue of how the world should have already shifted since the events already happened but this way is much more straight forward and I just prefer it. Gets you away from the loops. The good news about this and having one timeline is that even if Jack dies, if he was able to get her enough info in time then he will be resurrected in the new timeline.
He seems to be the only one actually aware of the time changes through his phone connection to Ashley. We can chalk this up to the power of a wish since he wanted a do-over. Part of why I like the structure here is because it’s all internally consistent and it’s not trying too hard to invent a lot of rules. It’s a simple time travel format that works quite effectively so I’ll give the film credit there. I also thought the writing was pretty solid in general with the mystery angle. There are a lot of twists and evidence to go through but it never feels like the movie is pulling things out of a hat. It’s all planned out and that’s really a good thing.
I don’t think you’ll figure things out too quickly but even if you do, I’d say that’s a credit to your detective abilities rather than a slight to the film. I would personally say it’s all hidden well. Then Jack makes for a solid main character which is important here. He’s certainly desperate to save Ashley and is pulling out all the stops but knows when to be subtle so he isn’t arrested for acting crazy. Now he does have to take desperate measures to get the evidence sometimes like pulling a gun on one of the officers but where other main characters would constantly charge in, Jack at least pretends to play ball like when he told his boss that he would drop it.
Ashley is also a solid character. She gets a handle on things fairly quick for a kid and doesn’t slow things down by asking a lot of questions. She asks a reasonable amount given the crazy circumstances that are going on but again, she handles it well. In general the film was good about making people reasonable. The cast is fairly small though because Ashley’s parents never get much of a role. Jack’s partner is around but you won’t get too many scenes of him throughout the movie. Jack is really in this alone the whole time.
Now the film does make one big mistake which is that the dog ends up getting bumped off. Why include a dog in a film like this when you know how it’s going to play out? The family just shouldn’t have had a dog and then things wouldn’t have been so tragic the whole time. While I won’t go into the twists and all that, either way it’s fair to say that Ashley’s dad did not handle things well at all. He really could have played things out in so many ways that would have led to a better ending for everyone. Even as the film ends, it’s not like it’s a super happy ending or anything. Things worked out but with heavy costs all around.
Overall, Don’t Let Go is a pretty solid film for the most part even if it fumbles the bag with the dog scene. Throw that out and I dare say this would have been going over very well. The biggest slight against it is probably that there won’t be a ton of replay value here. In general that’s something you see a lot with mystery films since once you know all of the twists it naturally can’t be quite as engaging the second time. There are some exceptions to that of course but a lot of the suspense is in not knowing who to trust and what will happen next. If you’re ready for a solid detective movie and can get over the dog scene then you’re all set with this one, otherwise I guess it’s time to let this movie go instead.