Locke (Review)


85 min

United Kingdom / United States

Director: Steven Knight

Writer: Steven Knight

Stars: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson

Release Date: September 2, 2013 (Venice Film Festival) / April 25, 2014 (United States

A director and actor break new ground in this depiction of one man's solitary quest to reorganize his life.

Who would you call on the most important night of your life? Ivan Locke leaves a construction site, gets into his BMW X5, drives onto England's M6 motorway and sighs a heavy sigh before beginning a series of phone calls. Roll the ending credits. Yes, that's the entirety of the film: A man in his car on the phone. Few films have been done with less and fewer films have accomplished more with so little. 

This is a one-man-show and the well-rounded and now renowned Tom Hardy is on center stage. Thinking back to his other almost-always-onscreen performance in Bronson, it's remarkable to see the range he is capable of. Ivan Locke is a construction foreman on the eve of the biggest concrete pour of his career, which makes his absence from the site all the more pressing. What's more, he had planned to spend the night with his wife and sons watching a football match. All of this is learned by being privy to the private confines of Locke's car and hearing the conversations on speaker phone. You'll want the big answer as to where Locke is driving and why. Each of the early phone calls is a piece to  this puzzle and once we get the big picture it's intense to watch Locke attempt against all odds to keep each piece from tearing apart.

Not once do we cutaway to glimpse the faces of those on the other line. Look at the credits on IMDb and you'll see the rest of the cast are listed as voice actors. And yet the audience is able to picture each of them in their mind's eye. When "Home" shows on the caller ID we can only guess, hope and fear what is going to happen next. Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott and Olivia Colman all provide earnest voice performances, but this puts all the more weight on the preoccupied Hardy who must react and emote with only his head and the hand he currently has off of the steering wheel.

I couldn't help but think of Hitchcock and the high concept plots he was prone to adapt. The sweat-inducing limitation of locations of Rear Window and the real-time intrigue of Rope are brought together to pressure Locke into revealing what type of man he truly is: a husband, a father, a son, a lover, a worker, a motivational speaker, a troubled soul striving to make the best out the situation he finds himself in. Locke tackles some truly emotional truths that I was not at all prepared for. 

Locke comes to us from writer/director Steven Knight and is his second feature film after last year's Redemption. He has written other screenplays and directed TV episodes, but most intriguing on his resume is creating the game show Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, a show that put contestants in a hot seat, gave them increasingly difficult questions to answer and let them have the option to phone a friend if they needed help. Sounds like the makings of a incredible experimental film, and so this is.

The necessary coolant to this boiler room of unconventional thrillers is the way in which Knight envisions this night through Haris Zambarloukos' lenses. At times Locke is observed through the windshield and side windows where the headlights and taillights of fellow M6 motorists reflect like a stream of blood cells. When inside the car we experience that false sense of safety and secrecy that luxury models provide. A sound booth is created for the dialogue-heavy film. There might be ambient soundtrack, I could not tell you, which means it did its job well. There's a moment or two where Dickon Hinchliffe's minimalist score gives us a break between calls.

The drive home after seeing Locke is especially memorable. After spending 85 minutes watching one man attempt to take control of his life, it's hard to not to emulate the behavior. The most powerful of movies have an inward impact that results in an outward action. Locke had the kind of an effect on me. Seek out this film and behold Tom Hardy emerge as an early frontrunner for best actor of the year.

I want to know that I’m not driving in one direction.
— Ivan Locke