Movie Review – Locke

Sparse dramatic film is given effortless heft by a commanding performance by Tom Hardy, alone and only rebounding off voices through his car-phone. It looks great, and ostensibly plays well with the art-house crowd, but with its iffy story premise there's plenty of wobble in this one. Hardy aside, Locke's mediocre; watch once, but that's about it.


– Summary –

Director :  Steven Knight
Year Of Release :   2014
Principal Cast : Tom Hardy, Voices of Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Tom Holland, Bill Milner, Danny Webb, Alice Lowe, Silas Carson, Lee Ross, Kirsty Dillon.
Approx Running Time :   84 Minutes
Synopsis:   Concrete laborer Ivan Locke diverts his life off-course during an eventful drive to the hospital, where a former lover is – well….. that would be spoiling things.
What we think :   Sparse dramatic film is given effortless heft by a commanding performance by Tom Hardy, alone and only rebounding off voices through his car-phone. It looks great, and ostensibly plays well with the art-house crowd, but with its iffy story premise there’s plenty of wobble in this one. Hardy aside, Locke’s mediocre; watch once, but that’s about it.


Locke Down(er)

Tom Hardy’s superstar status is rising; star turns in The Dark Knight Rises, the upcoming Mad Max: Fury Road, and multiple supporting roles in films like Inception,Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Layer Cake and Lawless, have kept him in the eye-line of producers and directors alike. His appeal with the public is perhaps one of mild curiosity – I’ve yet to see him utterly headline a mainstream blockbusting film, but Locke is certainly one that’ll not do him any harm at all. Hardy carries the entire film; he’s the only actor on the screen, driving his car, and aside from his conversations with people over the phone (who we never see), he doesn’t actually interact with anyone other than himself. It’s a performance that required intensity, nuance and sincerity of character, and the entire film hangs on Hardy nailing it. Like many a “man in a box” film before it, the film’s tension, its momentum (ha!) and drive (ha ha!) are derived from what emotional heft Hardy can bring to his character and scenario; does Locke stack up, or does it steer itself into average and stop there?

Tom Hardy sits in a car.
Tom Hardy sits in a car.

This plot synopsis contains unavoidable spoilers.

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is about to complete work on a major infrastructure project somewhere in Birmingham, when he receives a call that takes his life on a different course. While in his car, traveling to London, we come to learn that he’s on his way to the birth of his illegitimate child, something he’s told nobody about. While driving, he informs his boss, his work colleagues, and his family about his affair, and the way his (and their) lives are about to change.

Tom Hardy still sits in that car.
Tom Hardy still sits in that car.

Locke’s premise is vastly unbelievable. Although Hardy and director Steven Knight try valiantly to convince us that Locke’s a moral, ethical man, his behavior through this film would state otherwise. Perhaps that’s the point, making Locke feel somewhat ambivalent to his situation, but as a character I found him somewhat unapproachable. Which makes the film fairly indifferent to me. That said, Hardy’s performance is worth the price of admission. As a man under pressure, a man finding his life draining away like a plug being pulled suddenly, Hardy delivers a powerful performance. Oscar worthy? Hmmm. Star-making? I hope so. Locke might be a film of credible realism- although Hardy nearly makes it work – but as a work of drama there’s a sense of stretching the limits of believability. A man decides to dump his life’s work, his family and career for a woman he slept with once and never thought of again, destroying all that he’s built within the space of a 90 minute drive to London. Surely, there’s better ways to handle things.

Tom Hardy still sits in a car.
Tom Hardy sitting still in a car.

Irrespective of my inability to get past the incredulity of the scenario, my hat’s off to Hardy and Knight for even attempting something so brave. Would the film have worked better with a star like Tom Cruise, or Liam Neeson? Probably, and no doubt it might have been a bigger film, but with Hardy’s inclusion and the localized flavoring of English working-class Locke shapes up as a deft, compelling work of dramatic manipulation. Moments of the film are really well made, and elements of the story have a magnetic pull on the screen, but with a foundation so flimsy and ill-judged, there’s little to do other than just ride it out to its conclusion. Hardy spends some of the film berating his invisible, long-dead father, very Green Goblin like, as he drives, and his heartbreaking conversations with his kids, who suspect something may be up but not knowing exactly what, adds salt to an otherwise largely pedestrian set of story points.

Tom Hardy shits in a car.
Tom Hardy shits in a car.

I wasn’t disappointed with Locke – by and large, these kinds of films are notoriously hard to pull off well – because I think Hardy and Knight give things just enough juice to manufacture a real dramatic overture to greatness, but at a character level I was left thinking that Locke himself, douche that he is, just wasn’t interesting enough. Shades of light and dark were missing in his character, although Hardy tried to imbue him with some. Technically, the film is remarkable: apparently shot in real time, over the course of several nights, with Hardy driving along on the back of a flatbed truck down England’s motorways, the grim, dingy look of yellow and orange street-lighting has never felt so oppressive. But for naught. The film’s motivation is weak, the story has little outcome, and aside from Hardy’s commanding work in the lead, offers little to casual viewers other than confusion and befuddlement. Beer drinkers will hate this. Wine drinkers might even struggle. Me? I thought it was okay, but that’s about it.