Director: Steven Knight
Writer: Steven Knight
Stars: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott
Release date: April 18th, 2014
Running time: 84 minutes
Best part: Tom Hardy.
Worst part: The antagonistic boss character.
Over the past few years, cinema has displayed its potential to make the most tedious aspects of life appear invigorating and interesting. Most commonly, this refers to comic books, TV/film/book series’, and true stories. Eclipsing these blockbuster conceivers, the survival/bottle genre takes limited locations, characters, and concepts and develops invigorating narratives and thematically-sound thrill-rides. In British auteur Steven Knight’s new thriller Locke, a car is taken for a spin and pushed to the limit for a full 90 minutes.
Facing such antagonists as highways, freeways, and Give ways, we take major risks whenever we step into our cars. Automobile travel, forcing us to share with others and attack those who refuse to play by the rules, pushes Locke‘s narrative and its straight-laced lead character. Here, the thriller vibe kicks in from the get-go. Overcoming its questionable and, to some, risible premise, Locke is a philosophical, dexterous, and ambitious joyride. Unafraid to stick to its impressionistic conceits, the execution separates Locke from other bottle features of recent memory. Before Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) steps into his car, the audience is introduced to a chilly British night. With Locke’s plight fighting its way to the surface, the first five minutes relish in the premise’s most intriguing ideas. After a long work day, Locke hops into his car ready to face his greatest obstacles. Driving from Birmingham to London, he uses his car-set phone to update people on his status. His wife, Katherine (Ruth Wilson), and their two sons, Eddie (Tom Holland) and Sean (Bill Milner), eagerly await his return. Preparing for a vital soccer match, the beer, sausages, and jerseys are all laid out for the occasion. At the same time, Locke’s lover, Bethan (Olivia Colman), is giving birth to their lovechild in London’s St Mary’s Hospital. Aiming to reach her location before the labor period finishes, Locke’s true feelings become shockingly clear.
Perplexingly, there are even more pressing concerns for our misfortunate and steady-handed protagonist to deal with. From the opening frame, Knight’s screenwriting and direction merge amicably to deliver an uneasy and relentless creation. In control of this unique experiment, Knight takes theatre and novel tropes and transplants them effortlessly onto the big screen. As, essentially, a one-man show, Locke proves that big-budgets, labyrinthine sets, and multiple plot-lines aren’t always needed to create complex dramatic stories. The narrative, unlike most survival thrillers, avoids cliches, saccharine moments, and ridiculous leaps of logic. This thriller doesn’t put anyone in danger. Instead, the drama examine’s one man’s choices and the ripple effects they’ve created. With his personal and professional lives in disarray, Locke’s 90-minute journey pulls at the heartstrings and throws tempers and allegiances into dangerous tailspins. If his infidelity wasn’t bad enough, Locke abandons his duties as a construction foreman just a few hours before a major concrete pour is set to take place. Known to put 110% into each assignment, his sketchy and unforgivable actions in the present place any future employment prospects in jeopardy. Talking to his boss, Gareth (Ben Daniels), and assistant, Donal (Andrew Scott), over the phone, Locke’s patience and guile amplify the movie’s magnetic and transcendent aura.
“I want to know that I’m not driving in one direction.” (Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), Locke).
Bravely, and appropriately, this car-staged thriller talks down to those against Locke’s every decision. This post-GFC drama, depicting honest people carrying out desperate acts for pride and desperation, delivers a heartfelt apology to the working class man from the one percenters. With Knight taking on sensitive characters and gritty topics, his style emphatically supports his lead character’s impulsive decisions. However, despite the well-intentioned effort, the voice-driven antagonists occasionally come off as obvious and treacle. Gareth, screaming every word whilst refusing to listen to Locke’s sound advice, hurriedly becomes an unnecessary hindrance. Thankfully, Knight injects sympathetic and electrifying traits into his lead character. As the epicentre of this crumbling universe, Locke’s witless resolve and steely resilience is worth the price of admission. Pushed by a figment of his imagination – resembling his father – Locke is a intelligent and unhinged presence. Regretful and likeable simultaneously, the titular character anchors this already intense and effortless feature. Hardy – known to take on menacing roles in big-budget features like Lawless, The Dark Knight Rises, and Warrior – insatiably adapts to this subtle and direct role. Gripping onto a Richard Harris-esque accent, Hardy’s purposeful mannerisms and distinct tone amplify his memorable turn.
As the most realistic survival thriller to date, Locke expertly rests on handful of ideas, sets, and roles. Before its profound finale, the movie throws us in the driver’s seat and takes us on journey of regret, hope, and acceptance. With Hardy’s prowess in full view, fans will lap up this magnetic and visceral one-man production. For Locke, the road to hell truly is paved with good intentions.