Written and directed by Stephen Wright, Locke relies on tension and one actor to turn out a compelling and interesting drama. For eighty minutes, literally in the car with the main character Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), a construction foreman driving across Europe who abandons a major concrete pouring task to tend to a past infidelity with life-changing consequences.
When I heard of the premise, I'm not sure if there was another actor who would've incited enough interest for me to check it out. The first major draw was Tom Hardy; a performer who I enjoy but I don't feel gets satiable performances that really show off his charismatic talent. An itch that really needed to be scratched was watching a film that was entirely his own. Well, one character dealing with his recent fiasco in a painful yet intriguing car ride sounded like just the ticket.
The story holds attention from the beginning. Hunched in his automobile dealing with the demons of his past and present, Locke is enigmatic with his calm demure that is sizzling with frustration, regret, and logic. Calling colleagues to try and complete his work, while trying to reconcile with his wife and a semi-mistress, Hardy's only interaction to other characters is over the phone. For an actor who is virtually in ninety percent of the frames is a tough feat (i.e. Natalie Portman in Black Swan) - but Hardy exceeds your expectations, even if the film's summary doesn't exactly peak your interest before your screening. The subtle emotional ways in which Hardy pains his way through Locke's decisions and unfolding consequences to his actions is mesmerizing.
Locke brilliantly story feeds off of an everyday activity we do ourselves driving to and from somewhere, and going through the motions of maybe not looking forward to a day at work or anxious to get home, feeling anticipation for attending a special occasion or losing your patience in traffic. If you can't relate to the protagonist's decisions and actions, the mere action of his drive was something like "Oh, I've been through drives like this before". As much as the movie is mostly a drama, it has moments of humor, and strangely, an ending that invites you to be grateful you're heading towards recovery.
Hardy is the centerpiece of the film but the technical production truly needs a shout-out too. As Locke literally drives himself through one conflict to another, I loved how the exterior of the highway spotlights his frame of mind. Shot in real time on an interstate motorway, lights from the streetlamps whizzing by and cars around Locke's own vehicle to hide, cascade, and highlight his troubles. In his own bubble and world, Locke is trying to be the best person he can be; attempting to control events that are not controllable. The atmosphere itself becomes its own character with the story successfully center around missed deadlines, broken hearts, relationship regrets, loneliness, and redemption.
All movies via their fixed genre are designed to make us feel something; whether it's pure entertainment, laughs, euphoria, and sometimes devastation. Some of my favorites are the stories that take a simple task and completely change your perception of it. Jaws instilled doubts if we wanted to dip our toes in the ocean. Gravity made us thankful for, well - gravity, or the Earth, in general. Locke might change the everyday task and perception of driving. Believe me when I say to trust the posters, it's a tour de force achievement.