Locke (2013) / Drama

MPAA Rated: R for language throughout.
Running Time: 85 min.

Cast: Tom Hardy
Voices: Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Tom Holland
Director: Steven Knight
Screenplay: Steven Knight

Review published May 15, 2014

Locke is a high-concept, one-location drama, written and directed by Steven Knight, in which a man makes and receives a series of life-changing phone calls one evening while in his BMW (utilizing its hands-free phone capabilities) while out on the M6 toward London.

Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises, This Means War) is the only visage we see during the course of the film. He stars as construction project supervisor named Ivan Locke, from Birmingham. He's a husband and father, and usually a loyal one, except for one night seven months prior in which he made a rare lapse in judgment while out on a project -- a one-night affair that has resulted in the impending birth of his illegitimate child on this night. Tensions build inside the vehicle as he leaves his family and massive skyscraper construction job behind in order to witness the child's birth in London, threatening to undo everything he is if he doesn't spin these proverbial plates just right. In between, Locke deals with the specter (never seen) of his dead father, who abandoned Ivan when he had been born, and serves as his guilty conscience that propels him to jump through all of the various hurdles to ensure his passage to his baby's birth.

Locke is one of those movies that is hard to recommend blindly, as many moviegoers will quickly lose patience with the claustrophobic setting and lack of narrative other than eavesdropping on a collection of phone conversations over the course of 80 minutes, some of them delving into the technical issues having to do with a concrete pour. In many ways, this is a film of its age, as, as little as a few years prior, nearly all of these conversations would have either had to wait to be done on a phone off the road, or just in person. However, the satellite link to the car allows for conversations to occur while in transit, including call waiting, so there is very little space for reflection in this topsy-turvy predicament.

The best thing about Locke is the very nuanced performance by Tom Hardy at the heart of the film, which is particularly impressive given that he must do all of his acting without anyone to play off of but voices, and still convey meaning to the audience as to how critical the situations are when we don't know his history or any of the characters to whom he converses with. It's not as minimalist as Robert Redford's in All is Lost, but it is a comparable film in terms of its one-man-show aspect in which we must glean a good deal of the conflict just from the look on the protagonist's face. One can sense Locke struggling to do what normally comes naturally -- to keep his cool -- while the walls that hold up his life threaten to crumble like the concrete he oversees. He's a man who tries to look at the practical side of things, but fails to notice that what's really needed is to make an emotional connection, which is a muscle he doesn't flex as often as he should, keeping it all swallowed down deep inside.

For a unique experience at the cinema, Locke is definitely a different breed of film, and as such, merits a look for those who enjoy films off of the beaten path, and especially for those who love anything with Tom Hardy in it. However, this recommendation does come with a warning to not expect major thrills, huge reveals, or even to be riveted from beginning to end; it's a slow-burn dramatic character study to the bitter end.  

Qwipster's rating:

2014 Vince Leo