Some movies don't need large set pieces or ensemble casts to impress and enthrall audiences. One of the great things about watching theatre is taking in the small scale and the few actors. A few movies have taken a stage-bound approach, many of those to great effect. These films include Sidney Lumet's 12 Angry Men, Alfred Hitchcock's Rear Window, and Rodrigo Cortes' Buried. Fortunately, Steven Knight's Locke joins that pantheon of films that do so much with so little.
Now typically I would give a short, at least paragraph long, synopsis of the plot. However, I truly believed that a person should go into this movie as blind as possible to the plot or story of Locke. So I'll only give you as much as I think you need to know:
Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) drives in his car, talks to co-workers and family on his Bluetooth, and is trying to solve a problem.
That's it, the entire movie. It basically runs on a two-chamber heart, the screenplay and dialog, and the performance of the actor in the title role. For Locke both of these chambers are in good health, and pump plenty of tension, soul, and excitement around.
Knight's script is fantastic, it moves back and forth between phone calls and introspection. In a movie whose central premise could have worn out its welcome very quickly, Locke soars, and makes you wish it stayed a little longer. Knight also has a keen sense for direction as well. Knight clearly understands that he needs no special style or technique for this movie to work, he just needs his actors to be believable and let the story breath on its own.
On the acting side, the results are also magnificent. Tom Hardy is a revelation as Ivan Locke, and pulls off another fantastic performance in this feature. As the only character we ever actually see, Hardy dominates the screen and works well with his phoned in co-stars. Hardy had a similar task in Nicolas Winding Refn's Bronson but at least he had physical actors to work off of. Here, he get the same riveting results being on his own.
The other actors are great as well, as they had their own challenge of being only heard and never seen. American audiences may be able to recognize some of the voices, like Andrew Scott (Sherlock), Olivia Colman (Broadchurch) and Ruth Wilson (Luther).
Overall, this is a well acted, well crafted movie that will grip the audiences with words and thoughts rather than action or melodrama. Sometimes the stage-bound approach can get a little weary, and it will not be for everyone, and the movie may not be immediately re-watchable, but Locke is a great one man show that demands to be paid attention too, and you will not regret seeing it. Don't be surprised if it appears on many Top 10 lists for best movie of the year.
Locke is available on DVD/Blu ray and Video on Demand.