Ivan Locke has made a mistake. Locke (Tom Hardy), in fact is arguably making another one as he goes to fix one. An accomplished foreman set to lead one of the biggest concrete jobs in European history, Locke appears to have everything; a nice car, two sons he adores and a loving wife. On this night, he is driving away from it all and the decision may cost him everything.
This is the story of Locke, the new film by director Steven Knight, who penned this picture as well as other notable recent works (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises). This is also the whole story. The roughly ninety-minutes takes place with Hardy’s character the only one physically on screen as he does the nighttime drive to the woman, basically a stranger, he impregnated seven months ago. He talks to his kids, wife, co-workers and said woman along the way, shying away from certain facts, finally admitting others.
As a piece of acting, the movie is strong. Hardy, an actor often emitting a brute force nature, is a man attempting to keep his life from crumbling through shear calmness. He tells his wife that this is something which has already happened, now is the time to move forward; emotions be damned. When the would-be mother of his new child calls, a ball of feelings, she pleads for some kind of reaction, even if it is one of hatred. Hardy bluntly states that he hardly knows her, how could he hate her. Even with a Welsh accent that doesn’t always hold, Hardy carries this one-man piece effortlessly. You’ve heard the old saying, “I would watch so-and-so read a phone book.” You might say now, “I would watch Tom Hardy talk on the phone.”
The movie does not match Hardy’s level. Though Knight’s script nicely avoids forced theatrics to make the setting more visceral, the length is nevertheless padded. For example, every situation that Locke fixes in relation to his big concrete project is always followed by another set of issues minutes later. Locke talks his co-worker through a hiccup, it gets fixed, repeat. Plus, even as the dialogue largely has a smooth, natural tenor to it, Knight’s metaphors about our lead’s job and current predicament are heavy-handed. A diatribe about the foundation of a building falling to pieces over one misstep is eye-rolling.
Then there is the visual scheme, a overtly-flashy, tedious flow of flashing lights pulled in and out of focus as Locke’s car heads down the highway. Once more the metaphor is already crystal clear, with Knight over-egging the pudding to the point of distraction.
Locke comes off as a compelling short that is too thinly drawn to appropriately reach feature length. There are positives to be found outside of Hardy’s turn, particularly in the vocal performances and small shadings given to the two women tied to Locke’s life, Olivia Colman and Ruth Wilson. What we have here is a decent film, with an ambition that outreaches its grasp.
Locke is currently playing at Seattle’s Harvard Exit Theatre.