Published on April 19th, 2014 | by Brad


Locke – A Film Review

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I have no idea what on Earth possessed Steven Knight and Tom Hardy that this was a good idea. For 85 minutes, we follow Welsh building contractor Ivan Locke as he drives down the motorway from Birmingham to London. A woman he had a one night stand with is giving birth to the unfortunate product of that evening, and he has taken the decision to be there for the birth. As he drives down, Locke must juggle phone calls to her as she goes through labour, his wife and sons as he confesses his indiscretion to her, and work, as the next day sees “the largest pouring of concrete on a non-military project in European history”, which he should be there to oversee, but won’t be able to.

Alfred Hitchcock once described drama as “life with the boring bits cut out”. In principle, Locke flies in the face of this notion – a near-real-time drive down the motorway, taking place entirely inside the car with one actor and a hands-free phone. Such is the nature of the best, though, this seemingly inconsequential drama feels as compelling and immediate as any major studio thriller will. The consequences of what’s happening are earth-shattering to Locke, and as he is our only point of view, they take the same effect for us.

This is a film that lives and dies utterly on its central performance. If the actor in the driver’s seat can’t make us care about what’s happening to him on this drive, and sympathise with why he’s doing it, then we’ve got a pretty dull motorway journey ahead of us. Fortunately, the actor in question is Tom Hardy. About as magnetic a screen presence as you will find working today, Hardy imbues Locke with a likability that draws us in, with a darkness bubbling underneath that keeps us on the edge of our seats. It’s an absolute tour de force, from an actor in the form of his life. All being well, Hardy is going to be a major player for years to come.

Knight directs extremely well, making the absolute most of both the immediately limited location of the car and the somewhat repetitive nature of over 100 miles of British motorway. The supporting players in Locke’s journey are all disembodied voices on the telephone, but the importance of the work of Olivia Colman (Bethan, the mother-to-be), Ruth Wilson (Katrina, Locke’s wronged wife) and Andrew Scott (Donal, a colleague on the building project) shouldn’t be understated. Locke is single-minded in his conviction that his course of action is the right one, and it’s his interactions with these characters that provides colour and impetus. Scott provides a manic energy and occasional levity to punctuate a dark story, whilst Colman and Wilson are heart-breaking, Colman with the terror of the new life she’s bringing into the world, and Wilson with the horror of how that is destroying the life she knew. Other voices flit in and out, but Locke is the only face we see. It’s a strange effect, and one that works extremely well.

Locke is a curious experiment with the form of cinema, stripping away just about everything to leave us with a singular performance from the fantastic Tom Hardy. I wonder if its power might increase on the small screen, closing us more intimately into the car with Locke. As is, though, it’s a very good film, well worth the price of admission.

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