Director: Steven Knight
Starring: Tom Hardy
In the opening of Locke, we see a man in the dark, whose face is not revealed. He takes off his work boots and stumbles into his vehicle. All we know is that he’s a hard worker and that he owns a car. He stops at a light and signals left. When the light turns, he takes a long pause. We finally see his face, that of an honest man, conflicted and indecisive. The truck behind him honks at him, and at the light he remains. Finally, he changes his signal and goes off on a journey down a long stretch of highway and into various stretches of memory, panic, and psychological stress.
The man is Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) and he has somewhere he needs to be. A place which also, coincidentally, happens to be somewhere he shouldn’t be. The last place he should be, really. But he’s made his decision and for the next 80 minutes he stands by, despite the threat it imposes, over his job, his family, any and all previous engagements.
There’s tension in the slightest of Hardy’s mannerisms, the touch of his head, the fingers gliding gently over the steering wheel, the way his voice sounds like its going to boil over into a yell at any moment. He takes call after call from angry bosses, incompetent subordinates, and hysterical family, maintaining the order and cool of the man he’d built himself up to be, the kind of man who nobody suspected to have a secret.
Locke takes place entirely in the duration of this drive, to a location that I will not spoil. Much like theater, it builds from dialogue. Both character drama and plot development are sprouted from the seeds of betrayal, anger, and resentment. Most of the film is reliant on these phone calls, making it visually a one-man-show of Hardy’s wonderful acting talents, which is complimented by strong vocal performances from Ruth Wilson, Tom Holland, Olivia Coleman, and others. But one of my favorite aspects of Locke is what happens when Hardy is alone with the rear-view mirror, something so revelatory toward his past and who he is in the present, delivered in a way to assure us that Hardy is a force to be reckoned with.
A film directed and written by Steven Knight, who’s more adept to the screenwriting part of filmmaking, parts of Locke’s direction feels a bit bland. Tension would be built more effectively if Knight were to rhythmically tune and tighten the nuances of Hardy’s performance and mannerisms to better portray the decision-making and working-gears of Ivan Locke’s mind. Knight seemed to feel too confined to facial shots of Hardy’s face, with occasional ones that also show a window’s reflection. It is understandable that a car is a very limiting place for a director and an actor to work, but I still believe there is more to explore than that of what we saw. Knight also seemed to be concerned with boring his audience, having one call after another, allowing little time for the audience to ponder and breathe. He has the script, but not the confidence of a great director. Despite this, the bold move of not only making such a film at all, but executing it so well, is worth nothing short of applause.
This movie is not for everybody. Some people will be put off by its premise. Some people see it as a gimmick, and if handled and written with less care, that’s exactly what it’d be. But what Steven Knight manages to create is an introspective and intense character study. A lengthy car ride without a single crash, Locke assures more heart-stopping anxiety than that of its blockbuster competitors.