Director: Steven Knight
Starring: Tom Hardy
Whenever I notice a film with such critical acclaim as ‘Locke’, I make a point of going out of my way to see it. ‘Locke’ is not the type of blockbuster you saw in adverts on television. It’s a minimalist, under-the-radar, indie arthouse drama, that filmed on a shoestring budget and shot with a single live character in a solo location. The film debuted and was mainly presented at film festivals, to considerable fanfare and approval. So if you haven’t heard of ‘Locke’ before now, you’re in the majority, but that needs to change. Consider for a moment, sports betting in Las Vegas. If all the money is bet on one team, but there is a faction of all the smartest gamblers with the inside scoop betting on the other team, then the chances are that the second team is worth betting on, yes? The same goes for cinema releases. If all my friends are going to see the latest and greatest, CGI heavy, hit franchise installment, but the critics are heaping praise on another flick is terrific, then that’s probably the one that will turn out remarkably more worthwhile. That’s what you have in ‘Locke’.
The story of Ivan Locke, as told through this movie, is a simple one. Ivan (Tom Hardy) fancies himself a modest man. Ivan works in construction. He’s grown into a middle management position that affords him the opportunity to handle many important duties. He’s the honest, hardworking, blue-collar type that lives a satisfactory life – one that includes a wife and two kids in Ivan’s case. However, one night as he drives from Birmingham to London, his world completely unravels, from his job, to his marriage, to the imminent arrival of his bastard child.
The demonstration of cinematography is what absolutely sets ‘Locke’ apart from your typical matinée, but it’s the content and delivery that make Hardy’s performance spectacular. The film is framed almost exclusively with a camera to Hardy’s face on the long drive, as he sits taking calls in his BMW, desperate to get to the hospital in time to witness the result of a regrettable one night stand. As Ivan takes these calls, he puts out fires in an authentic, highly relatable way. It feels almost exactly how anyone would handle it. He calmly handles his business on the phone, directing a meek land man to handle managerial duties in his absence. He rationally tries to soothe the pregnant woman he’s driving to see. He sensitively responds to his wife trying to convince her that everything will be okay. Yet, every time he hangs up that phone and has a moment to himself, his inner emotions explode. He feels the anger, the shame, and the indifference that he has to hide from the world. Because of who he is, Ivan constantly has to remain strong for the people in his life. It’s a claustrophobic commentary on the faces we wear as humans to mask our inner realities. To the world we want to present a logical, perspicacious representation of ourselves. We need the world to think we have our shit together and nothing will phase us, but internally there’s an atomic bomb waiting to go nuclear. Thus, the candor in Tom Hardy handling each situation the exact way it needed to be handled is so genuine.
The most extraordinary element of ‘Locke’ is that to put it simply, it’s 84 minutes of the most elaborate BMW commercial we’ve ever seen. Just kidding. The one big issue I did have with ‘Locke’ though, that negated a portion of my praise, is the way that it cuts off with the situation completely unresolved. What happens with his newborn son? What happens with his family? What happens with his job? We never know, and it’s a shame to truncate a unique and fascinating story like that. One might think there is certainly room for another 40 minutes, to really examine the way Ivan recovers the bombsite that his life has become. Perhaps, in concluding when they did, director Steven Knight left at the perfect time. As they say, “It’s always okay to leave a party early, because you never want to be the guy who stays too late”. In that case, Ivan Locke is a great party guest. Just don’t ask him how the family is!