Locke (2013) Steven Knight
Amazon Instant Video
The cast of Locke includes 12 actors, but we only see one of them, Tom Hardy as the title character, Ivan Locke, making the film – for all practical purposes – a one-man show. I didn’t know this going in and from the many negative reviews on Amazon (356 one-star reviews as of this writing) , most other people probably didn’t either. The pity is that so many people apparently stopped watching after the first 15 minutes, missing an incredible performance by Hardy and a superb film.
Ivan Locke is all set to supervise the largest construction project of his career, a massive concrete pour in Birmingham, England that will dwarf anything he’s ever done. But he’s going to miss it, risking his career to be with a woman named Bethan who’s gone into premature labor in a London hospital. Bethan isn’t Locke’s wife, but she’s giving birth to his child, the result of a one-night stand from seven months previous. During the 100+ mile drive, Locke takes several phone calls, trying to explain his decision to be with Bethan to his coworkers, his son, his wife, and Bethan herself.
Locke feels very organic, as if director Steven Knight really filmed Hardy driving a real car on real roads having actual conversations with these people. For the most part, this is exactly what happened. The conversations, of course, were scripted, but Hardy is really driving, really taking phone calls in a real car on a real road. We feel as if we’re eavesdropping on real conversations of real people.
Early on, we infer from conversations with one of his coworkers that Locke is used to being in charge, being the authority, making the right decisions that others either are to afraid or unprepared to make. He keeps insisting to everyone that going to be with Bethan (who has no one else in her life) is the right decision. He never questions this, although everyone he speaks to does.
But why does he insist on being with Bethan? Sure, this is a situation of his own making; it’s clearly his fault, but he could’ve handled this quietly, kept everything hushed and gone on with life. But there’s a reason – which I’m not going to tell you.
Locke thinks that he can fix anything, even this totally messed-up situation with Bethan. Again, he’s used to getting things done, used to being “the answer guy” and he promises that once he gets things “fixed” with Bethan, he’ll come home and “fix” things there.
I’ve known people like this, have even known them in the construction profession. (I worked in a construction office for a year.) The people who are the best at these jobs know who to call, what pressure to exert, and how far to push to get things done. And they tend to think it doesn’t stop once they leave the office. It’s when things start to unravel – and the phone calls start coming faster, more frantically – that we begin to see what guys like Locke are made of.
Director Steven Knight is responsible for writing Locke and some other excellent films including Dirty Pretty Things, Amazing Grace, and Eastern Promises (screenplay). All of those films involve some type of moral dilemma with someone trying to do the right thing. Locke is no different, but its focus is different and highly concentrated, a textbook study for how character should be revealed. It’s an amazing performance by Hardy that deserves attention, yet the claustrophobic setting of the car, combined with the impending darkness of the nighttime drive (with excellent cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos) forces the film to get under your skin. The limited setting, cast, and claustrophobic feel of the film almost guarantee that Locke won’t be for everyone, but it might just be for you. If you give it a chance, I think you’ll find the tension almost unbearable, but what really makes us think after the credits have finished is the vital question “What would I have done?”