Locke (2014) – Review

Directed by Steven Knight
Written by Steven Knight
Starring Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman

This must have been a tricky pitch. One man in a car, played out in almost real time over the period of an hour and a half as the life of one ordinary man falls to pieces around him, despite his best efforts to stop it from happening. That pitch will have been considerably easier by mentioning Tom Hardy’s name, of course. Still, this is not your everyday, run-of-the-mill, action thriller. Known by the masses for performances in Christopher Nolan blockbusters like The Dark Knight Rises and Inception, Hardy really shrugs off his iconic reputation in this low budget story about one Ivan Locke, a Welsh construction manager with an albeit slightly worrying passion for concrete. Real fans will already know he is consumately up to the task, having seen Hardy in other projects, like Bronson, for example.
Polarising some audiences upon release, many expected something else. Why is not quite clear, however. What is quite clear is that if you only have a passion for a film that would have Bane roaming through it, then this is probably not going to be your cup of tea. ‘Worst film of the year!’ and ‘Waste of time.’ are only a couple of comments you can find on websites frequented by what can best be described as bells and whistles advocates. And this features neither bells nor whistles. if you get my drift.
Ivan Locke is not having a good day. He’s been carrying around a certain amount of emotional baggage for a while now. Married, we discover early on, with two sons, we first meet him finishing his shift and gettting into his car. Tomorrow morning, he is meant to be taking delivery of the largest order of concrete in european history, in order to create a building that will dwarf the surrounding skyline, a construction that will ‘cast a shadow a mile long’. Ivan Locke is good at his job. He is conscientious, focused, networked, loyal and smart. He is purportedly organised in the extreme. He has been spending the last ten years becoming highly respected for his work ethic and dedication. He has a role that requires immense responsibility for the company for which he works. He cannot afford for things not to go to plan. Especially tonight, of all nights.
Fate, not without a sense of irony, has alternative plans for Locke on this night, however. Personal and professional responsibilites will collide and alter the immediate course of his life. The film, an unavoidable journey played out in entirety from the confines of Ivan’s car, is a masterpiece of low-budget, minimalist film-making. During Ivan’s journey to London that night, he makes and receives dozens of telephone calls from colleagues, friends and family, all interconnected by Ivan’s actions. Added to this is an imaginary one-way conversation he has with his invisible father in the rear view mirror, which provides some excellent clues to this mans’ psychological proclivities.
Once you get over the altogether surprising choice of making Ivan Locke a Welshman and Hardy’s valiant attempts are recreating the accent, you can settle in for what will be a superlative ninety minutes of very well realised technical wizadry. It’s almost a given that the acting, seeing as it is only one man on screen throughout the whole show, will be up to, if not above, par. The only person Hardy will actually have to act against will be himself, after all. The gives him carte blanche to develop Locke as he and his director see fit. He responds to conversation on the phone in real-time too, and those phone calls are real, made by the cast members from a hotel room nearby, variously taking place on one of only a few nights successive shooting.
The somewhat inconvenient placement of the film will bring with it its own potential niggles. Whilst Hardy mostly only acts against himself or the telephone, this could easily have proved to be a problem without someone to bounce off. Many actors will say that it is as much about the person your acting with that raises your game or prompts a particular response dependent upon the feed line and its actual delivery, sometimes reliant upon visual, as well  as audible, cues. Hardy has none of this at his disposal, which makes his singular performance all the more impressive.As his journey continues, so do the phone calls and as audience members, we are drawn into the story of this man and his trials as voyeur as much as anything. Watching the film is akin to sitting in the passenger seat of his car and not being allowed to say anything, but you are as immersed in his problems as if you were there with him and this is Knight’s skill in developing the story at a pace that feels just predictable enough without becoming trite or obvious.

So, an amazingly simple tale told in real-time. Certainly it will divide both audiences of film in general and fans of Tom Hardy in particular, who may find this type of film-making too laborious for their tastes. Personally, I though it was outstanding and rates up there as one of very few films released so far this year that I wanted to watch again immediately. A brilliant solo performance from Hardy, a continually effrective and intriguing story with visuals that although not unique or particularly inventive, are most defintely suitable for the story.

Fantastic and highly recommended with the likes of Under The Skin and Enemy as one of 2014’s must-see films.

 

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