Director: Steven Knight
Writer: Steven Knight
Starring: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson
Running Time: 85 minutes
Locke may be the greatest 85-minute vehicle advertisement ever made.
The entire film takes place inside the cozy confines of a BMW X5 SUV, and it proves to be the only source of comfort for Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) as his life begins to unravel over the course of a drive from Birmingham to London.
Locke, a successful construction foreman and loving family man, is on his way to London for a very urgent reason, one which I will not spoil. In making this impromptu trip, he has had to both abandon an important work project and miss out on a soccer match with his kids.
Locke is on the phone for most of the trip (via a hands free Bluetooth device), handling calls related to multiple catastrophes at once. He is surprisingly calm in his demeanor, even as he talks to a co-worker who is freaking out about the prospect of Locke not being at work in the morning. His company is on the verge of the largest concrete pour in European history, and now its most stable employee will not be there. Locke’s boss is predictably irate, but there’s nothing that can be done. Locke made his decision, and he’s sticking to it.
What’s amazing about the film is that it remains riveting even as Locke talks about the difference between C6 and C5 concrete. This is a subject I know nothing about and have little interest in, but I was hanging on every word uttered out of Tom Hardy’s mouth.
Hardy is the biggest reason this film works. This is entirely a one-man show, and he puts on a master class in acting. His soft spoken mannerisms are in total contrast to the hysterics often heard on the other end of the line, and the restraint Hardy shows in his voice is remarkable. The rest of the cast (including Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott) are only heard, not seen, but all of them deliver exceptional voice acting.
Director Steven Knight (best known for writing Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things) does a wonderful job of tapping into the claustrophobic feeling that Locke has to be dealing with inside the SUV. There are times when everything appears to be crumbling down around him, but there’s nothing for him to do but continue to drive. Most of the camera shots focus directly on Hardy’s face, further emphasizing his trapped feeling.
Locke is a film that sounds like it could be a cheap gimmick, but it’s so much more than that. We are witness to the most disastrous day in one man’s life — it just so happens to take place entirely in a car.