The British independent film Locke pre-premiered earlier this week at the Lagoon Cinema in Uptown. With screening transferring across the street to the Landmark Uptown, Twin Cities’ cinema goers will now get the opportunity to view Tom Hardy’s much vaunted role in director Steven Knight’s eighty-five minute single-hander. Although we see only Hardy throughout the course of the film, this is no soliloquy, for the supporting cast all emerge throughout the movie’s duration in a series of cell-phone exchanges as Hardy drives southward towards London from the English Midlands.
Essentially, Locke is the unfolding drama of Ivan Locke, played by Hardy, who, following a day's work, jumps into his BMW SUV for his date with destiny. A still young but successful construction director, Locke leaves the building site the day before the foundation of a magnificent high-rise building – set to become the largest “pour” of concrete in Europe, we are told - is filled. Instead of joining wife and sons in the family home, Locke heads south for the capital instead.
Locke’s evening, and his life, then begins to unfold. Haunted by the specter of his own abandonment by an absent father who then turned up as Locke was in his twenties; Ivan Locke is determined to do the right thing. The right thing, it transpires, is to stand by Bethan, who is pregnant and expecting his child this very night. Bethan, the voice of Peep Show’s Olivia Colman, is carrying the child as a result of a one night stand with Locke. As tension mounts, Locke confronts his wife Katrina, played by Ruth Wilson, who appeared as the psychopathic Alice Morgan in Luther. Katrina, horrified, goes into meltdown and will then only speak to Locke intermittently through his two sons, still waiting for their Dad to return home.
As Locke’s world unravels he still has responsibilities to the pour of concrete due to take place the following morning. Communicating by phone with his boss Gareth, voiced by House of Cards actor Ben Daniels, Locke assures his superior of his commitment to the next day’s events. Perplexed, Gareth checks in with the construction company overlords in Chicago and, sure enough, Locke is fired on the spot. As a sense of bewilderment sets in, Locke learns that Katrina, the wife he loves, refuses to take him back, while all the time calls from those connected to the construction site are either missed, ignored or aborted.
His one unstinting ally throughout the evening is the Irish construction site worker Donal, voiced by Andrew Scott. Dubliner Scott, who portrayed Private John “Cowboy” Hall in Band of Brothers and more recently Jim Moriarty in Sherlock, stands by Locke right up to the film’s denouement. As Locke heads south toward the hospital where Bethan is due to give birth, the sense of doom is palpable. One man’s life, his ambitions, the carefully cultivated career, the family he strove to build despite not having had that advantage himself as a child, are all laid asunder through his own weakness nine months earlier.
As Hardy’s bearded character pumps the steering wheel harder and harder and strokes his stubble still more furiously, he resembles an earthly version of Keir Dullea’s character “Dave” from 2001: A Space Odyssey. Like Dullea’s character, Locke is being transported along a landscape where light juxtaposes darkness; where the night lights on the motorway illuminate the black evening sky. At the end of this light and dark, destiny waits Ivan Locke, just as it did Dave in Kubrick’s masterpiece.
Along the drive south the E.U influenced societal and demographic changes in the U.K are evident as Locke pumps Donal for information on the big day ahead. A Polish builder, Stefan, is hired while assorted Albanians and Hungarians are also mentioned in connection with work on the site.
Although the themes are universal, the accents and colloquialisms are uniquely, and reassuringly, British. Hardy’s heavy Welsh brogue is authentic and more than passes muster, while Andrew Scott’s Irish lilt will be more familiar to American audiences. Daniels, Wilson and Colman all chip in with variations of standard Received Pronunciation – the “British” accent of stage legend – while Hardy claims to have received the inspiration for Locke’s accent from “a lad in Hereford” in a recent promotional interview. With Locke’s boss being an Englishman with a Welsh name, and with his associate throughout this long night of the soul coming in the form of fellow Celt, Donal, the Irishman, all that was really missing here in terms of casting was a Scotsman.