You would be forgiven for thinking a narrative centred around a man sitting in a car making phone calls would be a dry, uneventful one. However, Locke proves this wrong thanks to the acting ferocity of Tom Hardy and the technical expertise of director-writer Steven Knight, both delivering an uncompromisingly intense thrill ride.
Hardy plays Ivan Locke a construction manager who abandons his work on the eve of Europe’s biggest cement pour, setting in all-out panic amongst his superiors. His home life soon begins to unravel when he reveals that he is travelling to London to support the woman he had a one night stand with during the birth of their child.
Steven Knight’s (Hummingbird) narrative begins by setting up several questions which immediately hook us in and command our interest. We see Locke call his colleagues to tell them he will not be at work to oversee this multimillion pound pour, but we do not know why. As Knight’s narrative gradually unveils its mysteries what follows is a desperate man’s fierce attempt to cling to control of his work and home life from the seat of his car. The revelation of Locke’s affair results in his family life, his job and new child slipping away from his grasp. What then follows is Locke’s attempts to handle these issues – whether it be instructing a colleague to handle a road closure or consoling his distraught wife, the frantic ringing of his in-car phone usually signals a new issue that he needs to find a way to handle amidst the chaos.
Knight’s direction is surprisingly inventive considering the film’s sole location – the interior of Locke’s car. Regular close-ups of Hardy help convey the spiralling emotions of Locke whilst reflecting the unrelenting claustrophobia and near-helplessness of his situation. Exterior shots of continual passing cars on the darkened motorway touch on several wider questions: where are they going? Are their predicaments like Locke’s? Without relying on over-the-top set pieces, Locke finds its thrills in a punchy fast paced narrative and the power of Hardy’s performance.
Tom Hardy does not have an easy task, serving as the sole actor on screen throughout Locke – essentially carrying the full weight of the film. The actor commands the screen with an almost ferocious desperation as the man who fights to control events that are beyond his reach. Packed full of convincing emotion and a raw humanity – scenes where Locke’s speaks to his children amidst the chaos are particularly emotionally charged – Hardy brings a Richard Burton-esque fire and authority to the screen, complete with Welsh lilt. Emotive vocal performances from the likes of Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott and Ruth Wilson add a further depth of character and realism to Locke.
As a look at the spiralling consequences that one mistake can lead to, Locke is gripping from the onset, a fascinating and absorbing watch. As a cinematic experience, Locke is fresh and inventive – a testament to the talents of Knight and Hardy.
Lionsgate Films UK
22nd February 2014 (Glasgow Film Festival)18 April 2014 (UK Cinema
Director: Steven Knight
Tom Hardy (voices: Olivia Coleman, Tom Holland, Ruth Wilson, Alice Lowe, Ben Daniels)