Locke is an exquisite showcase of how riveting it can be when one actor commands the screen. Tom Hardy stars as Ivan Locke and he is the only face you will see for the entire 85 minute run time. Not only is Hardy the only face you’ll see, but the entire film takes place inside of his car. Hardy is mesmerizing with a calm charisma and gentle voice that holds everything together. This is a wonderful film full of symbolism and confidence and not only is it a great respite from the bombast of summer blockbusters, but it is a glorious film in its own right.
Ivan Locke is a family man with a wife and two sons and also a successful construction manager on the eve of the biggest job of his career. The film begins as Locke is heading to his car at the end of the workday. As he sits at a stoplight with his left turn signal blinking a flurry of emotions cross his face. The light turns green and Locke still sits, unsure of how to proceed. When the truck behind him honks his horn Locke switches his turn signal to turn right and has made a decision that may jeopardize everything that he has built up in his life.
The film follows Locke as he drives from Birmingham to London while fielding phone calls regarding the set up for the concrete pour that he is supposed to be in charge of the following morning, calls to London to deal with a situation from his past that has come back to haunt him, and multiple exchanges with his wife and sons trying to explain why he is doing what he’s doing. As the film moves on Locke tries harder and harder to hold his life together as everything is falling apart.
It is an extreme credit to Tom Hardy, writer/director Steven Knight, and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos that they have crafted a one location film entirely composed of phone conversations and have made it immensely watchable. While there is nothing groundbreaking in the visuals they are very well done, and Zambarloukos plays with all the night time lights of a highway just enough to avoid being repetitive. He also utilizes different focus techniques that keep things interesting as well as giving a shakiness to the camera that perfectly evokes the feel of driving. There are very few flourishes and the minimalistic camera work only helps focus on Hardy’s performance.
Tom Hardy is quickly becoming one of the best actors working today by taking risky roles and falling into them so completely that it is sometimes difficult to even recognize him. He has done some stellar work in films like Inception, Bronson, Warrior, and The Dark Knight Rises. The reason Locke is so successful is Hardy’s ability to play a man that is very controlled and logical with a soothing voice and a tendency to believe that he can make everything work out the way he wants to. It is a stellar performance worthy of praise that I fear will fly under almost everyone’s radar.
There are mounds of symbolism in the film, some on the nose and some less so. Locke tends to speak about concrete in terms that would directly apply to the situation in his life, but while those symbolic gestures are fairly obvious it is some of the other moments where the underlying layers of the film really stand out. There are elements of integrity, redemption, and confession littered throughout that strike chords across the entire film and really work well in stretching the themes across each section of the story.
Locke is likely going to go largely unnoticed by the general public and that is a shame. There are wonderful moments in an emotional story that are all anchored by a supremely confident performance by its only actor onscreen. This is a movie that film fans will find well worth seeking out. Grade: A