The appetizer that was Brick Mansions helped to prepare me for the first of this weekend’s main courses. First up is Locke, written and directed by Steven Knight and starring (almost exclusively) Tom Hardy.
The film follows Ivan Locke (Hardy), a construction foreman, as he leaves work one night, choosing to take a fateful right turn, rather than the left that would take him home. We slowly learn that a mistake Locke made in the recent past has now come back to haunt him, both personally and professionally. As he drives toward his destination, he is forced to handle the fallout from his bad decision by mobile phone.
It would not necessarily be a spoiler to provide further details regarding what Locke did and how he is handling it, but part of what makes Locke so effective is watching the story (and the man) unfold and unravel. The entire film, aside from a sweeping opening shot of the construction site, takes place inside Locke’s car as he drives and makes calls. Due to his self-imposed constraint, there is not a whole lot of opportunity for innovation available to Knight and his cinematographer, Haris Zambarloukos. There are a few good-looking shots of Hardy’s reflection in windows and mirrors, but ultimately the spectacle of Locke has to give over focus to the story. And not only did Knight manage to write a compelling script confined to one very small location, he managed to populate his film with great actors to deliver his line.
This is absolutely Hardy’s film, and there is plenty to say about his performance, but it would be a mistake to ignore the efforts of the supporting cast, who appear in the film as voices only. Particularly strong are Andrew Scott (Sherlock‘s Moriarty) as Donal, the man Locke has unexpectedly left in charge of one of the biggest concrete pours in history, and Ruth Wilson as Katrina, Locke’s wife. Both actors manage to convey everything we need from their performances through their voices. I can think of no higher praise than saying that more than once I wished the film could break its convention so that I could see these actors’ reactions, as well as hear them.
But that is the point. Much like the viewer, Locke himself wishes he could be with these people, to explain everything in person, to console, but circumstances just won’t allow that. Locke made a mistake, did something that we are led to believe is very much out of character for a man who is intensely practical and staunchly principled. And now, those same traits have driven him (get it?) down the road he finds himself on.
Hardy plays Locke impeccably. He is in almost every shot of the feature, and he has a full conception of the character, down to a very interesting accent choice. Every person Locke interacts with receives a slightly different version of the man – he has a mask for every occasion, slipping between whichever one he deems appropriate depending on what is being discussed. But in the end they are all masks. In the moments between phone calls we get to see the emotional turmoil pushing through Locke’s carefully composed veneer, in the form of frustrated outbursts, as well as hazy, almost delusional, one-sided conversations Locke has with his deceased father.
Locke’s father is the key to the man we see here. The patriarch abandoned Hardy’s character from birth, which was seemingly par for the course for the Locke men. So Ivan Locke has gone to extreme measures to “fix it,” as he says several times throughout the film. His entire personality has been constructed to prove that he is better than his father. And though his transgression may show that Ivan is a lot more like his father than he would care to accept, he expects the final accounting of his character will be written by how he deals with the consequences.
There is so much to enjoy in Locke that the short-comings hardly register. The film’s look is very static (by necessity) and the themes and characters arcs are pretty explicitly laid-out toward the end of the film, but much like Ivan Locke’s experience in his car during the 85 minute run-time, Locke is absolutely about the journey. Locke is a guaranteed net positive, and gets a very heavy recommend from me.