LockeReviewed By Jay Seaver
Posted 05/17/14 14:17:32
Steven Knight's "Locke" does not take place entirely within the confines of the title character's car as he makes the ninety-minute drive north to London, as there may in fact be an entire minute or two given to him walking to it and getting in. Kidding aside, that's a dangerous gambit, and choosing Tom Hardy as the actor who will anchor the entire movie only hedges the bet a little. Good thing for them that the bet pays off in a movie much more engrossing than 85 minutes with one guy in a car sounds.Of course, it's not like Ivan Locke (Hardy) is going to spend the drove listening to the football match on the radio like he tells his son; there are a lot of phone calls for him to take and make, whether from the woman in London who is having his baby or the wife who is justifiably upset both by this development itself and the way in which she's learning about it. The situation has Ivan making a running commentary to the absent-even-when-alive father that he imagines in the back seat, as Locked is determined to handle the situation better. Of course, the timing couldn't be worse; Locke is a construction foreman, and his site is scheduled for the largest concrete pour ever done in a noon-military European project, which means a lot of calls to and from his boss, his right-hand man, and all the people who need to be consulted at the last minute.
It is understandable to see that making sure a proper concrete mix is used in a construction site and think that Knight is really determined to find as many ways for his movie to be boring as possible, but the fact that Locke takes his concrete seriously is something I love about this movie. There is detail to Locke's life that may be more interesting than the viewer initially thinks, and which continues even as he's having his personal issues. That it's concrete is definitely no accident - this man has reasons for wanting to lay strong foundations - but Knight doesn't torture the metaphor either before or after the explosion which makes the connection clear, even though it's simple enough to be easily recognized as central to who Ivan Locke is.
Tom Hardy sees how this desire is central to his character, and it lets him give a performance that is compelling without being loud or obviously intense in the way that many one-man shows can be. Ivan Locke is a man who has cultivated being level-headed, and Hardy is able capture how this trait can make him a bit of a profile to people who might appreciate someone who shares a bit of their uncertainty without making him annoy the audience as well. There's a combativeness at times, especially when addressing the empty space where he imagines his father to be, but mostly a dance between denying and accepting the degree to which his actions are going to leave his life a shambles. There's also something curious about the accent he uses; I may just be falling to recognize one of Britain's many ways of speaking the same language, it's got an in-between sound, like he's settled in a new place but not lost the sound of where he grew up - or how, maybe, as there is certainly the possibility that this man who started out illegitimate and working-class is trying to show that he's reached a higher station.
He's got the car for it, a BMW that certainly reflects the level of importance that Locke would see himself as having achieved, complete with an in-dash system that lets the audience know who Locke is talking to (or ignoring) without distracting graphics. Knight and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos find a good balance between slick, glossy shots from the outside which sometimes catch reflections and tight immediacy, making for a film that feels intimate but never restricted to the places a camera can fit inside a car. Throw in some good music by Dickon Hinchliffe and crisp editing by Justine Wright that doesn't overemphasize the real-time aspect, and what could just be a gimmick movie works on its own without diminishing the challenges Knight set for himself.Perhaps most impressive, though, is the way that the tone balances the material. This is a movie about everything in a man's life falling apart as the audience watches and listens, there's also something doggedly optimistic about the way it assumes that the desire to do the right thing is sufficient motivation and the way the title character believes that problems can be solved. This attitude, as much as the tight way Knight works the setting's limitations, is why "Locke" winds up a far more exhilarating movie than it has any right to be.
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