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Locke: More of a One-Man Off-Broadway Show than a Movie

Image from A24



Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland

Markus Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Rated R for language throughout.

These low budget, stripped down, single character dramas are really starting to become a “thing”, aren’t they?
Even though (on the surface) Tom Hardy’s performance carries this film, and the fact is this may be the best thing Steven Knight has ever written, the most impressive thing “Locke” has going for it is its direction. Using what seemed to be only two or three camera angles to capture 85 minutes of Hardy driving (most of “Locke” was filmed within the confines of a car) I am fascinated by the techniques used by writer/director Steven Knight, which culminated in my shocking degree of favoritism towards a movie with should have (by all accounts) been a snooze-fest.

Synopsis: Ivan Locke is the site manager of a construction job who on the eve of a historically large “pour” (the pouring of concrete) essentially quits his job, gets into his car and begins to drive through the night towards a destination; a destination which holds a secret whose truths may see the collapse of everything good and stable in his life. The stakes begin to raise as (on the way) Ivan must make some phone calls to friends, family and employers, explaining his actions.

As static as the concept of a man driving on a highway for 85 minutes may sound, I promise you that at no point will you be checking your watch, metaphorically wondering to yourself, “Are we there yet?” In fact, as the movie progressed, I admittedly found myself leaning forward in my seat all the more.
To say this script was good enough to keep the plot progressing would be selling it a bit short. There are true moments of brilliant “wireless” conversational subtext. In the same breath, “Locke” is also a movie which at times becomes bogged down by it repetitive metaphors pertaining to concrete and construction work. By the hour mark, we get it. Some characters have strong moral foundations and others have weak moral foundations.

Hardy’s performance: In what is essentially Tom Hardy’s one man show, he is asked to command the attention of a theater audience for 85 minutes from a seated position; a seemingly impossible task, which he does pull off. OK, so we all know that Hardy is a great actor (one of the best working today) but he should also be recognized as a physically “powerful” actor as well. Here’s the issue: With the focal situation of this film being what it is, and the voices on the phone sounding as conversationally natural as they do, after a while it becomes apparent that Hardy’s performance comes off as unnaturally forced; like someone on a dimly lit stage reciting Shakespeare to the unseen masses. This is in no way an attempt to knock Hardy’s acting abilities; on some level I understand why he chose to play the character the way he does, as he is the only person on screen for 85 minutes. All I am trying to say is that maybe, just maybe (probably) Hardy was miscast here.

Final Thought: I’m not saying that “Locke” is a grand achievement in experimental filmmaking as some critics are proclaiming. It has its flaws. The greatest being, that there is a revelation which comes to light about 20 minutes in, revealing the reason as to why Ivan is driving to begin with; a revelation that is crucial to gauging this characters moral compass. However upon hearing his reasoning, if his motives still seem strange to you, then you may find him to be more of an irritatingly prideful man than one of substance; which was undoubtedly the opposite of Knight’s intent. But again, as a whole, “Locke” does more than simply maintain. It is far more than simply “not boring”. “Locke” is 85 minutes of well paced, tension driven, well crafted filmmaking, and is worth checking out.

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