Think back to all of the single-location films you’ve seen. Most people would think of something along the lines of “Phone Booth,” “Rear Window,” “or “12 Angry Men,” films that thrilled us with their suspenseful plots, making us sit on the edge of our seats in anticipation of what was going to happen next. Then again, some people might think of something even smaller and more obscure, like Louis Malle’s “My Dinner with Andre,” where the audience becomes enraptured with the fascinating dinner conversation. Now imagine a film where you don’t get thrills or engaging conversation, a film where the entire concept is a man driving a car for 80 minutes and answering phone calls, and you’d have a pretty good idea of what “Locke” is like.
Taking place in real time, “Locke” follows a construction worker, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), as he makes a sudden decision one night to be by the side of a woman, Bethan (Voice of Olivia Colman), he impregnated as she gives birth. On the way, he has to tell his wife (Voice of Ruth Wilson), subsequently dealing with the consequences, try to direct a massive concrete pouring that’s to take place in the morning, and comfort Bethan as she prepares to have the baby. Over the span of 80 minutes, Ivan tries to keep his life from completely falling apart, a rather difficult thing to do with all that’s going on.
“Locke” is a bizarre single-location film that rides entirely upon one actor and the conversations he has with various characters on the phone. You would think that, with so much riding upon these conversations, writer/director Stephen Knight would make absolutely sure that they would be gripping, or at the very least engaging enough to the point where the audience is absorbed into the world surrounding this character. However, this is something that he has ultimately failed to do, instead choosing to have much of the film be about Ivan trying to take care of a construction job that he’s not going to be able to attend. Is this really the best use of the character’s time, or better yet, the audience’s? It’s rather puzzling to have so much attention wasted on this when there are the other matters of his infidelity, his bastard child, and a devastated wife. Granted, Knight doesn’t make much use of this either, but for an improved start, focus should have been redirected to what was more important.
Luckily, the film isn’t a complete loss. Tom Hardy, as usual, is brilliant, but here he is particularly amazing in the titular role. We know that he can hold his own, grabbing an audience’s attention without much difficulty, which comes in handy here given that we don’t have much else to engage in. It’s such a shame because it merely makes you wish, with much futility, that the material was worthy of such a talented performer. Hardy brings great emotional depth to this character who’s struggling with so much, and even though his priorities are a little strange, we begin to feel for what he’s going through. If the priorities of the film had been in the right place, who knows what could have been accomplished here.
While Hardy’s performance is amazing, it’s not nearly enough to save what ultimately ends up being a rather dull film. Without something firm for the audience to grab on to, we’re simply sitting there watching a man talk on the phone for 80 minutes, which is just as enthralling as it sounds. It would appear that Knight merely had a concept in mind when making this film, but beyond that, he was a little lost as to how to make it work in a manner that would pull the viewer in, a factor that turns “Locke” into a forgettable experiment.
“Locke” comes to Blu-ray in a 2.40:1, 1080p High Definition transfer of excellent quality. The entire film takes place at night and almost entirely within the confines of a dark car, and yet, the picture quality is beautifully sharp throughout the presentation. The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is likewise outstanding, allowing you to hear every conversation in perfect clarity. Overall, you couldn’t really ask for better quality in either area.
Audio Commentary with Director Steven Knight: An informative commentary track that has the director giving you interesting bits of trivia, such as how they would film the movie twice a night, eventually assembling the final cut from the various takes. Worth listening to if you want to learn more about the film.
Ordinary Unraveling: Making Locke: A short, ten-minute featurette that takes you behind the scenes of the making of the film, featuring interviews with the cast and crew. This is another extra that’s worth exploring for a few more tidbits about the film.
Despite a fantastic performance from Tom Hardy, “Locke” makes for a rather flat single-location flick due to its suffering from a lack of engaging material. If writer/director Steven Knight had put the film’s focus in the right place instead of throwing it around into unnecessary areas, we might have ended up with a thrilling, attention-grabbing storyline, instead of one that merely has us asking why we’re watching a man talk on the phone for 80 minutes. Hardy may be very talented, but in the end even he can’t save “Locke” from running out of gas well before it reaches its destination.
Available on Blu-ray and DVD starting tomorrow.
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