On the surface, Locke doesn’t sound like it couldn’t possibly be the riveting film that it is. Following a man’s journey in a car in real time overnight as he drives from Birmingham to London? You’re kidding right? Only during this car ride, Ivan Locke’s entire life changes, and you’re left hanging on every word, wondering what is going to happen next.
The refreshingly simple concept is brought to life by director Steven Knight, who also gets writing credits. Ivan Locke is a construction foreman gearing up for the biggest job of his life set to go down the next day. Only instead of taking care of the final details and going home to his family to watch a big football match as he promised, Locke takes off in his car, with London set in his sights. During a work trip months ago, Ivan mistakingly had a one night stand with a co-worker. Now she is pregnant, and he decides that being their for the birth of their child is the right thing to do. We see that he has daddy issues of his own, and doesn’t want to be a hypocrite by abandoning his child just like his father did.
On his way to comfort Katrina (Ruth Wilson), the woman he impregnated, he is forced to juggle calls within his car, all of which have huge ramifications on his life. He has to explain why he isn’t coming home to his wife Bethan (Olivia Colman) and their two sons Eddie (Tom Holland) and Sean (Bill Milner). Then he has to explain to his boss Gareth (Ben Daniels) why he won’t be at work for the biggest concrete pour in European history, which he was overseeing. Locke has to hand the task over to his co-worker Donal (Andrew Scott) who has a drinking problem, and has never been trusted with such a big task. He puts his marriage and job on the line, all in the course of a commute.
Knight sharply films Hardy within the car (basically in one long scene), conversing over the phone with these various subjects, all with simple shots of his car’s bluetooth screen or just Hardy himself. The results such be dull and maddening, but in fact, it’s sensational and riveting. I was left on the edge of my seat, eagerly awaiting each phone call to see where the story would take Locke next.
Equal credit to the film’s two stars, Steven Knight and Tom Hardy. Knight manages to deliver his tight script with a confident intensity that is needed for a film that takes place in the confines of a car. Tom Hardy delivers a powerful performance that shows some incredible dramatic range that is convincing and captivating. It’s the type of performance that I’ve been waiting to see from Hardy, and he hits it way out of the park. There’s also some subtle, but mesmerizing, shots from cinematographer Harris Zambarloukos, who makes things more exciting by the way he portrays everything on screen. He creates a ride within a ride, preventing our minds from ever exiting the film.
There’s a refreshing nature to Locke that managed to be exciting and cinematic, without any big budget explosions or set pieces. All you needed was a good script, and tight execution by everyone involved, and you have one hell of a film. At 85-minutes, the film runs at a breezy pace, almost wrapping things up too soon with a rather abrupt ending. As the credits roll you’ll be surprised at just how invested you find yourself into what comes next for Mr. Locke. It’s for sure one of the best surprises of 2014 so far.