Release Date: 18th April 2014
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director: Steven Knight
Starring: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, Ruth Wilson, Tom Holland,
On the eve of his biggest ever project, building site manager Ivan Locke gets in his car and undertakes a ninety minute drive. By the end of his journey, Ivan has lost everything in order to retain his sense of honour. Locke is essentially that fateful drive in real time, with Ivan making a series of phone calls en route to his family, employers and friends where he tries to explain where he’s going and why. Despite this high-concept sounding pitch what follows is a delicate exploration of one man’s long night of the soul.
Writer turned director Steven Knight has explored notions of masculinity and urban dislocation in much of his work, from his scripts for Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises, to his feature debut as director, the recent Jason Statham vehicle Hummingbird. With Locke, Knight continues down this road. Tom Hardy’s Ivan assumes several different roles as a father, husband, boss and underling; all while driving relentlessly onwards alone.
As the only onscreen performer for the whole running time (other actors appear only as voices on the other end of the phone) Locke depends to a great extent on the lead performance of Tom Hardy. In the main he succeeds with a largely internalised performance, playing Ivan as a man struggling to control his situation and emotions while resolutely sticking to his principles. Hardy finds his way into the character through small touches; the way he stuffs his tissues up his sleeve or fiddles about with his wedding ring at times communicate more than words. When he does speak he has, inexplicably, a Welsh accent; a bizarre choice as he doesn’t so much sound Welsh as he does a funny uncle doing a Tom Jones impression. After the laconic grumblecore he employed in Lawless and the bizarre vocal stylings he used as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises, Hardy seems to be on a mission to make everyone he plays have an unexpected voice. It’s a strange decision to say the least and a shame at that; it distracts from an otherwise fantastic performance.
Despite the stagey concept – one man in one space revealing himself through phone calls and occasionally theatrical execution (Ivan is prone to monologuing to his dead father between calls) – Locke still boasts some striking visuals. The halogen blur of traffic and streetlights smear across the windshield as Ivan streaks through the country at night; his reflection warped and distorted in mirrors and windows. Adding to the weird sense of disconnect caused by driving alone on a motorway at night are the slow dissolves between scenes that make Ivan seem to be a part of the landscape whilst simultaneously moving through it. For a film set in a confined space, Knight and his cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos makes good use of the surrounding area, keeping the images dynamic and fresh. At times it looks like a glossy car commercial only with more soul searching and tears.
Strangely this film is being touted as a thriller, perhaps because films in a confined space like Phone Booth and Buried usually are, but at its heart Locke is a character study of a (Welsh)man trying to do what he feels is right..