2014, R, 85 mins.
2014, R, 85 mins.
Tom Hardy as Ivan Locke / Ruth Wilson as Katrina / Andrew Scott as Donal / Olivia Colman as Bethan / Tom Holland as Eddie / Ben Daniels as Gareth / Bill Milner as Sean
Written and directed by Steven Knight
Knight’s LOCKE is some kind of small-scale miracle of a movie.
In an era where films are dominated by ostentatious visual effects
and all-out eye-straining overkill, LOCKE emerges as an effective antidote
to such commonplace filmmaking extremes.
It’s simply a masterpiece of filmmaking economy.
To call it minimalist would be a grand understatement: With the minor exception of a couple of opening shots and some perfunctory ones involving exteriors, the majority of Knight’s film transpires entirely within the confines of a BMW and one man’s long and arduous journey along the expressway from Birmingham to London. The primary action – if you can call it that – involves the ever-increasing pressures that the driver experiences while talking to family members and occupational colleagues via the car’s hands free Bluetooth device.
inherent challenge of an experimental film such as LOCKE is to create
semblance of narrative momentum and tension within the ultra-small
confines of the story’s settings. Knight
seems more than up to the filmmaking challenge here, but he’s especially
assisted by a performance of extraordinary focus and power by Tom Hardy,
whom – outside of acting opposite of voices on the phone throughout the
story – is tasked with carrying the entirety of the film on his
shoulders. Hardy has given many superlative performances during his
stellar career, but he just may be at his finest here.
Locke (Hardy) has a lot on his plate.
He’s a legendary construction foreman known for getting the job
done and is about to oversee one of the most technically challenging jobs
of his career with an inordinately complex concrete pour in Birmingham.
On the eve of the job, though, Locke learns that he’s about to
become a father…but with a work colleague that he impregnated during a
drunken one-night stand. She’s
about to go into labor and is panic stricken, seeing as she has no other real
friends or family to be by her side.
Feeling responsible for binging a child – albeit an accidental
one - into the world, he decides to abandon his work responsibilities –
and his wife and children – to make a long journey to the London
hospital to be with his mistress during childbirth.
his last minute choice – born out of personal guilt and a sense of moral
obligation – torments Locke during his drive.
Over the course of his two hour commute on the freeway Locke is
forced to deal with not only his angry employer (who is forced to fire him
when his higher ups, in turn, force him to do so), but then must also relay all
of the tedious details of the important concrete pour to a work colleague
that may or may not be up to the challenge of the project.
Beyond feeling responsible for both his soon-to-be-born child and
the concrete pour (despite being terminated, he still has pride in getting
the task done), Locke is forced to communicate with his wife and explain why
he won’t be home to watch a hotly anticipated football match with his
kids. As the night progresses and emotional pressures mount, Locke struggles to deal with
the far-reaching consequences of his choices.
obviously and literally, is a deeply insular drama. The story is as simplistic as it gets: A man finds his
typically disciplined and logically ordered life thrown upside down by the
pressures of his decisions during one pressure cooker of a night. From a visual perspective, Knight has the Herculean task of
crafting some sort of aesthetic interest in the film without it becoming
repetitive and boring. Thankfully
– and rather thanklessly – both he and cinematographer Harris
Zambarloukos manage to covey the inherent loneliness and isolation of
Locke via some crafty and creative camera moves and editorial variety.
There is very rarely a moment when the camera is not squarely
focused on Locke, but it’s nonetheless with the character like a
fly-on-the-wall voyeur. The
film creates a dramatic urgency and stirring intimacy largely because of
its incredible sparse setting.
just might not have been an actor that could have taken on the thespian
challenge of this film of the calibre of Tom Hardy, who has been steadily
taking claim to being one of the most intensely focused and versatile
actors of his generation (watching films like BRONSON, WARRIOR,
LAWLESS and THE
DARK KNIGHT RISES, there’s not one similar performance in the
bunch). The inherent
challenge of LOCKE for the actor is to maintain our interest in this man for
nearly 90 minutes straight…and hold our attention.
With a thick Welsh accent and a meticulously mannered inflections,
Hardy makes Locke a calmly articulate and internally poised man that
desperately tries to stave off emotional implosion.
Perhaps more than any other past character he has portrayed,
Hardy’s Locke is a relatable everyman despite his questionable
indiscretions. He also has the difficult job of conveying the whirlwind of
confusion, anxiety, and frustration of his character via close-ups and
subtle facial language. I’m
not sure that you will see a more quietly spellbinding screen performance
think, in essence, the main reason that LOCKE is able to foster and maintain audience
investment in the film is because the title character could be any one of us.
We can sense Locke’s despair and distressed attempts to right
wrongs while giving himself some semblance of personal emancipation from
said reckless life choices. Ultimately,
Locke is a semi-doomed man no matter what decision he makes during his
evening, which makes the film so absorbing and involving.
As LOCKE unfolds we learn more of where the character’s
motivations lie, which is tied to a depressing upbringing with a largely
absentee father. Crucially,
Knight never goes out of his way to make us sympathize with Locke (he’s
a flawed person that has committed adultery and has willingly betrayed the
trust of his family), but rather invites us to witness a man trying to do
the right thing despite overwhelming obstacles.
He’s someone that has built a domestic and work life void of
struggles that, in one evening, finds it crashing down around him.
He just wants to do what’s right, even if it’s inconvenient and
heartbreaking to those around him.
might easily write off LOCKE as a one-note stunt film, which would be
egregiously misleading. It
belongs on a very short list of accomplished films with remarkably limited
premises, like BURIED
(about a man buried alive, which all took place in a coffin) and ALL
IS LOST (another one-man film, featuring a lone actor battling the
elements and himself). Akin
to those two films, LOCKE becomes wholly intoxicating despite – and
perhaps as a direct result – of its atypically small scale settings, mostly
because of the slow burn approach it takes to highlighting the encroaching
squall of desolation and distress that its main character finds himself
in. Yes, this is a film
ostensibly involving a man’s hands-free phone calls while driving, but
Knight and Hardy tap into the story’s inherent limitations and really say
something profound about the fragile human condition.
LOCKE is a trailblazing original and Hardy proves yet again why no
filmmaking obstacle can contain and stop him.