In Locke, a high-concept thriller from Steven Knight (Hummingbird) set almost entirely in a single car – with external shots of gloomy motorways – Tom Hardy stars as a man – Ivan Locke – who must drive to an important destination while attempting to rectify a number of different problems. He talks on his phone, and has imaginary conversations with his deceased father, and that’s it.
All of Hardy’s co-stars (including Olivia Colman and Ruth Wilson) are off-screen, meaning that Hardy has to carry the film pretty much alone, aided by Knight’s stylish direction (with cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos), which makes varied use of the darkness hanging over the English motorways Locke travels along, and the lights that permeate it.
The entire film was shot multiple times, chronologically, with the best footage combined. Hardy speaks in a thick Welsh accent (pretty much flawless) and has a considered, mannered style of delivery which works oddly well in tandem with the sparse setting and the low hum of the engine. It’s clear that Ivan’s seemingly unflappable personality is a front – deliberate or not – for the turmoil bubbling under the surface, which initially manifests itself in the form a building job that Ivan has abandoned in order to attend his secretive appointment.
The film is not long, and is by definition dialogue heavy, meaning Tom Hardy and the script are left with a pretty big job. While the former is excellent, the latter is not so consistent. There are obvious metaphors for Ivan’s life in his discussions about concrete, which work well, but there are other occasions when the script is a little too on-the-nose – in particular a recurring football motif. In the brief moments when Locke isn’t on the phone, he’s usually talking to an empty seat where he imagines his dead father to be, and these scenes again don’t quite gel.
Considering its protagonist is heading for a very specific destination, Locke doesn’t quite manage to find one itself. The ending is abrupt and in a way I appreciated its sentiment, but for me it lacked emotional weight. I came out of the film respecting what it had done more than feeling moved or overly thrilled by it.
But there are certainly sections of the script when it does hit the right beats, particularly in Ivan’s conversations with his wife, and in a couple of humorous moments. The film makes quite a lot out of not very much, and features a strong performance from Tom Hardy, whose versatility continues to impress – and for that it’s worth checking out.