Locke sees the titular character driving his car for about 90 minutes in real-time attempting to hold together his unravelling existence. Writer/director Steven Knight weaves this deceptively simple premise into a magnetic, engaging viewing anchored by a superb performance from Tom Hardy.
Ivan Locke (Hardy) finishes work with a happy wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson), a loving family and a career defining job well in hand. The moment he hops in his car you realise it’s not all what it seems. Around seven months earlier he impregnated Bethan (Olivia Coleman) during a fleeting one night stand and she’s giving birth to his child. This trip toward his new child changes the course of his life.
Knight despite the constraints of a vehicle, does wonders with exploring the different perspectives available his character’s space. The refractions and echoes of Hardy’s image in the constantly fluctuating lights of cars cruising by give the illusion of setting changes that the imprisonment of the vehicle restricts. Knight adjusts his gaze at Hardy’s Locke depending on where the conversation is going.
The supporting cast, like Scarlett Johansson in Her before them, have a profound impact over the course of the film, yet you’re only hearing them over the phone. Colman’s Bethan just surges with desperation out of the receiver, resulting in Locke refraining from emotional investment in order to mute her hysterics. Andrew Scott’s Donal is the perfect assistant thrown into the scary deep end that requires all of Locke’s skill to mould him into an appropriate substitute. Locke has to be stubborn and harsh to get the best out of him as he begins to pale in the face of the task. Knight’s camera is a storm as Donal can’t get things right, and there are wasted moves on Locke’s chess board. Locke’s interactions with Ben Daniels’ Gareth is just the best representation of ‘my hands are tied’ middle management that uses their conglomerate as an excuse to push Locke out of his job, despite his efforts with Donal to ensure things go smoothly. He has to remain emotionless for his psychological victory. Ruth Wilson’s Katrina is the wild card in these interactions. As he drops the bomb of why he won’t be home, you feel her fall apart; and Locke’s desperate attempts to hold her together are all in vain.
The success of the picture is solely in Hardy’s ability to temper and time the Locke’s emotional trajectory over the course of the film. With a perfect lyrical Welsh brogue he’s extremely focused on the required outcome of this journey. He seems intent on remaining ahead of the storm he’s conjuring in his wake. Instead as the tarmac streams below him, and each interaction chips away at the life he’s created for himself. There’s not only interactions over the phone, Locke must occasionally vocalise his internal battles to convince himself that what he’s doing is right. In a lesser actors hands this could have been over-exaggerated tripe. In Hardy’s hands it’s something to marvel at. At the beginning of the film he has to be assertive, he mustn’t lose his patience, he must remain detached. Yet as the film progresses and he starts to see how unrealistic his expectations are, regarding the final outcome of this situation, he unravels.
Thanks to Knight’s direction, precise scripting and Tom Hardy’s formidable talent, Locke is an emotionally devastating time capsule of a man riding the wave of his life collapsing.
Blake Howard – follow Blake on Twitter here: @blakeisbatman and listen to legacy audio reviews on That Movie Show 2UE here or on top-rating film podcast Pod Save Our Screen, available now on iTunes.
Directed by: Steven Knight
Written by: Steven Knight
Starring: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman (Voice), Ruth Wilson (Voice), Andrew Scott (Voice), Ben Daniels (Voice), Tom Holland (Voice), Bill Milner (Voice)