Film4 FrightFest 2015 Review – Never Let Go (2015)

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Lisa Brennen is a one-time FBI agent with both a checkered past and a complicated future.Plagued by disillusionment and guilt she decides to gather up her emotional baggage along with young daughter Sophie and make tracks for sunny Marrakesh.Before you can say top-up tan her offspring becomes the target of a messy beach abduction pushing Brennen into full feral mama mode and leaving her facing murder charges.

From here on in the movie becomes a frenzied real time search and rescue thriller with the icily calculating Lisa navigating the alleyways and rooftops in in a breathless blur of protective parent driven parkour.She has limited help in the form of a rapidly degenerating tracking device and a trusted friend in the secret service.The rest is down to her professional training and primal instincts as she desperately tries to intercept the kidnappers before they slip away through a crucial three hour window.

Never Let Go is a film full of fascinating contradictions and comparisons none more so than the way the film revels in acute realism as it unveils it’s delightfully outlandish plot.

The fight scenes for example are both speedy and brutally decisive as is true in real life and yet it’s the consequences of violent encounters that become the core theme.Don’t approach the film expecting a drawn out super savage martial arts extravaganza, though director/writer Howard J.Ford’s background in zombie horror does afford some nasty yet well controlled gore.

The acting outside of the superb lead turn from the totally committed Angela Dixon is low key and underwhelming yet at the same time full of authentic nuances and realistic dialogue.This is in direct contrast to the powerhouse performance from Dixon.

Dripping with more fresh sweat than a Grand National winner she whimpers and snarls her way through the process of balancing ethics against single minded determination.It’s like watching a rabid canine wrestling with the morality of mauling the thieves of her favorite bone.This juxtaposition is a masterstroke, creating a conduit that channels pure empathy and at the same time keenly dictates the audiences focus..

Never Let Go leaves the blocks like an amphetamine snorting cheetah, with afterburners, and each subsequent twist and reveal smacks you in the face with such celerity that you don’t really have time to mount a viable case against it’s plausibility.This works beautifully in contrast to the many instances of slow motion used to break up the ferocious hustle of the narrative.It soon proves impossible not to become helplessly immersed in our heroine’s plight as the chaos ebbs and flows before our eyes.

In terms of aesthetics Never Let Go is a beautifully shot movie.The Moroccan location is vividly utilised with the claustrophobia of the narrow passage ways contrasting elegantly with the ambitious scope of the main ideas at the heart of the film.

With no sibling on hand to provide the cinematography that responsibility fell to Travellian Skipaldi.As it happens, as well as having a name like a James Bond villain, he also had the necessary set of skills to provide the vibrantly expansive images that have become the hallmark of a Howard J. Ford picture.

There are definite signs that strong female characters are beginning to infiltrate the male dominated world of action cinema.Charlize Theron’s much debated Imperator Furiosa from Fury Road and Salma Hayek’s controversial Everly are two of the most recent green shoots to appear.Angela Dixon’s Lisa Brennan will do much good towards cementing this trend by bringing feminine humility in to the ass-kickery arena.

Never Let Go demonstrates that the kind of maternal aggression showcased in 2007’s fantastically brutal À l’intérieur and made iconic by Aliens in 1986 performs exceptionally well as a modern revenge thriller template.

A huge portion of those who watch this movie will totally identify with the lengths Lisa goes to in order to protect her child and will find themselves unusually tolerant of the on screen violence.Indeed Ford’s film may well stand accused of being supremely arch in it’s evocation of affinity but the connection the audience forges with the main character is so robust that all Machiavellian attempts to manipulate will be instantly forgiven.

Some times even the most obvious of tweaks can breathe fresh life into a stale genre and as such Never Let Go manages to successfully resuscitate the pissed of parent revenge flick.Switching the gender of the main protagonist may seem overtly simplistic but in doing so Ford has created something far more radical and satisfying than just a maternally driven spin on Taken.

Embracing it’s budgetary limitations instead of fighting against them Never Let Go is a prime illustration of how a film that truly understands its own boundary’s becomes more able to operate outside of them.

You will be hard pressed to find a better thriller this year.

★★★★1/2
Bradley Hadcroft

Action,thriller,Drama |  USA, 2015| Latitude Films | Film4 FrightFest 2015 |  28 Aug. 2015(World Premiere,U.K.) | 18 |Dir: Howard J. Ford |Angela Dixon, Nigel Whitmey, Lisa Eichhorn

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