Locke is one of those films that invariably gains traction thanks to good word-of-mouth. A film that, while almost effortlessly simple, manages to capture the audience through a perfect script and a stunning, almost solo, performance.
Leaving work one night Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) makes a snap decision to turn right when he was planning on turning left. Alone in the car Locke’s only company are those he speaks to on the phone; co-worker Donal (Andrew Scott) who is panicked by Locke informing him he must supervise a crucial cement pump on their building site by himself tomorrow, angry boss Gareth (Ben Daniels), his wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) and Bethan (Olivia Colman) a woman who seems desperate for Locke to come to her aid.
Locke is a taught, tense and always riveting thrill ride. Writer-director Steven Knight immerses us in Locke’s predicament, his decisions and his entire world within the confines of a car gliding along England’s M-roads. Thanks to the boxed environment of Locke’s car we are able to become immediately familiar with him, learning his demeanor of communicating differently with all the various people in his life. Comforting and nurturing to his wife, controlling and disciplined to his co-worker, cool and collected to his boss and just a little condescending to the hysterical Bethan.
It’s often a hypnotic ride; one minute you feel huge sympathy for Locke, the next you realise he is a man who has made mistakes but is desperate to atone for them. Knight’s script keeps things interesting constantly throwing in lines of dialogue which perfectly comment on Locke’s predicament, as his life spirals out of control he casually tells someone “there’s a speed limit” while the frequent conversations about concrete are a quietly powerful reminder that Locke’s life is on very unstable foundations. And all the while smart cut-aways to the sat-nav taking Locke into a white nothing feels like a poignant reminder of the chaos that awaits him.
The vocal performances are great. Andrew Scott, whose native Irish accent makes him sound remarkably like Chris O’Dowd, conveys just enough panic to bring a sense of almost comedic relief. Ruth Wilson does both distress and anger with grace while Olivia Colman is possibly the finest example of a fully realised character who we hear but never see.
But Locke’s crowning glory is Tom Hardy. A constant threat when it comes to powerful performances here he is allowed to not just shine but burn bright in what is essentially a one man show. Brooding, powerful and emotionally devastating Hardy’s performance is the kind that should see him lavished in awards but the understated nature of the film will probably prevent such logic prevailing.
A stunning and deeply evocative character drama, Locke is the kind of film that gives credence to the phrase “less is more”.