Review – Locke (2013)

Directors: Steven Knight

Starring: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels

LockeFilmmaking can be very formulaic, so it is exciting when you encounter a film that tries to do something quite different, a film that attempts something truly unique. In its brave rethinking of how to tell a story on screen, Steven Knight’s film Locke is such a film.

The evening before a major concrete pour, the biggest non-military pour Europe has ever seen, Welsh construction manager Ivan Locke gets in his car and leaves the Birmingham construction site, heading for London. He starts making phone calls. The first is to home, where his wife and two sons are waiting for him to join them for the big football game. He tells them he won’t be able to make it. The next is to his subordinate at work. He tells him that he won’t be on site tomorrow so must delegate responsibility for the pour. Where is he going? What is it which requires him to drop everything at such a pivotal moment? As Ivan’s journey continues, and calls are made and received, we come to understand the predicament he finds himself in and watch his endeavour to manage the situation.

A masterful piece of minimalist filmmaking, Locke reimagines the very nature of what is cinematic. Knight’s compelling script is a variation on a one-man play, with the entirety of the film taking place in Ivan’s car in real time as he drives to London. With no flashbacks or cutaways, the film places an incredible faith in the power of dialogue, with all of our narrative information coming through the phone calls Ivan makes and receives on his journey. Despite the seeming limitations of its format, Knight’s film is a gripping and suspenseful thriller.

There are very few actors in the world who can hold you in the palm of their hand for ninety minutes on their own, but Tom Hardy is definitely one of them. It is difficult to imagine this film working without Hardy’s performance. Having played some incredibly intense characters in his career, Hardy here delivers a wonderfully restrained and layered performance as a man trying to stay calm in a crisis. Ivan Locke is a really interesting character psychologically, as he wrestles with notions of culpability and responsibility. A meticulous man, he is determined to fix things. He is determined to control the chaotic situation in which he finds himself, and while we can see the flaws in what he is attempting to do, we also perfectly understand why it is the only thing that he, being the character that he is, can do in this situation.

This unusual film required an unusual shoot. The entire film was shot in six days. Each night, as the car was towed along the motorway, Hardy would perform the film in its entirety, from start to finish, stopping only to reload the memory cards on the three cameras mounted on and inside the vehicle. He had six autocues hidden around the vehicle, and the phone conversations were actual calls, with the rest of the cast located in a hotel by the motorway. With the whole project going from the initial idea to its debut at the Venice Film Festival in only a few months, there is an incredible energy in the production.

While the film is not perfect – there are moments in which Ivan addresses the ghost of his father, who appears in the rear view mirror in the back seat of the car, and these feel a bit forced in comparison to the rest of the film – you forgive those slight missteps because of the overall boldness of the piece. Coming in at just under ninety minutes, a perfect length, this unique, compelling piece of storytelling will have you absolutely riveted from beginning to end.

Rating: ★★★★☆

Review by Duncan McLean

Have you seen Locke? Leave a comment and let us know what you thought.


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