A mobile phone connection functions as a link in between the past and present for a cops investigator and his dead niece in Do Not Release, a brand-new supernatural thriller from Blumhouse Productions that debuted at the 2019 Sundance Movie Celebration previously this year. It’s a bit Frequency, a bit Looper, with a smidgen of great old-fashioned police procedural included for great procedure.
( Moderate spoilers listed below.)
The movie stars David Oyelowo ( Selma) as Investigator Jack Radcliff, who keeps an eye out for his young niece Ashley (Storm Reid, A Wrinkle in Time, Ecstasy). Ashley’s dad (and Jack’s bro), Garrett (Brian Tyree Henry, Atlanta, Joker), is bipolar with a history of alcohol and drug abuse, along with the periodic little drug running. He’s been on the straight and narrow for numerous years now, however Jack still provides Ashley a cellular phone so she can call him if she requires him– like when her father forgets to choose her up from the films after dark. One day Jack gets a stressed call from Ashley, and hurries to his bro’s home, just to discover Garrett has actually shot his better half and child, and after that himself, obviously in the middle of a manic episode. It’s ruled a murder/suicide, however something about the case feels incorrect to Jack and he begins poking around, to the inconvenience of his employer, Howard (Alfred Molina, Types, Da Vince Code).
At the funeral service, Jack informs his LAPD associate and buddy Bobby (Mykelti Williamson, Con Air, The Purge: Election Year) he wished a 2nd opportunity to repair things. In your home alone one night, his phone rings, and the caller ID states it’s Ashley. She’s calling from the past, 2 weeks prior to the murders, uninformed that she is talking with her Uncle Jack from the future– a minimum of not initially. Jack understands he has an opportunity to conserve Ashley and alter the past– potentially conserving himself at the same time– if he can find out what actually took place that day. And the clock is ticking.
The relationship in between Jack and Ashley is the engine that drives the whole movie, and Writer/Director Jacob Aaron Estes discovered the ideal stars to develop that engine in Oyelowo and Reid. Oyelowo is best understood for playing Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 2014 biopic Selma, gathering various awards and elections for his wholehearted representation. He brings that very same suppressed strength to Jack, contrasting feelings streaming throughout his face like water in nearly every scene. (Enjoyable truth: Oyelowo is a real Nigerian prince, of the kingdom of Wonder) Oyelowo likewise had a cameo as The It in the 2018 adjustment of Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, starring Reid as Meg Murray, so Do Not Release is a reunion of sorts for the set. Simply 16, Reid has remarkable screen existence, able to hold her own in scenes with much older and much more skilled stars with ease– not an unimportant accomplishment.
Do Not Release is not an ideal movie. The supporting characters aren’t totally established, and offered the restricted cast, it’s not difficult to find out what took place to Ashley and her household as the story unfolds. However there is a peaceful self-confidence to its storytelling that is rather attractive, and the plot’s simpleness makes it simpler for the movie to deftly have fun with numerous timelines. The last act is truly suspenseful, ratcheting up the stakes as the past and present timelines begin to assemble. Tonally, Do Not Release has much in typical with Quick Color, another thoughtful, downplayed gem of a movie launched previously this year, starring English starlet Gugu Mbatha-Raw ( Black Mirror). I wish to believe there’s still a location in the cinematic environment for these smaller sized, easier sort of movies to prosper. Here’s hoping Do Not Release discovers its audience and shows me best.
Noting image by YouTube/Blumhouse Productions