Tom Hardy phones it in, and drives Locke home
Locke is a restrained and uniquely raw film. It is simultaneously difficult to watch and impossible to ignore. Emotionally it feels agonizingly real and almost unbearably frustrating. Tom Hardy delivers what I believe to be his best performance yet, essentially performing the equivalent of the tango without a partner, tied to a chair.
Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a man that loves his family and his career more than anything. The night before the biggest day of his professional life, he receives a phone call causing him to make a decision that will cost him everything he loves. Locke begins driving all night from his building’s construction in Birmingham where he was due to supervise the largest concrete pour in the United Kingdom to London. On the way, we witness him making a series of critical phone calls. The most painful of these calls are with his family, particularly his wife. Locke is forced to explain, in the car, over the phone, a one-night affair seven months ago, and now the woman he impregnated is giving birth two months early in London. In spite of his lack of feeling for the woman, he is making the difficult decision not to leave the child he is responsible for creating, fatherless. This decision also cost him his job, which he is still desperately attempting to perform over the phone, out of his sense of responsibility to the building they are constructing.
And not once does he leave his car. Even so restricted Hardy is able to inject so much emotion and strength into this character it is nearly impossible not to hang onto each moment. It is almost ridiculous to think a film that consists entirely of listening to phone calls and watching an uneventful drive is absolutely captivating. You find yourself silently pleading for things just to work out for him. We are allowed to sit comfortably knowing he made the right decision, without knowing ourselves if it is in fact the right decision. In fact, I don’t know if it is possible to know what the right decision would be. The prospect of having to make a choice like his, as he did, is almost abhorrent that I subconsciously reject the premise if I try to apply it to myself.
For all the simplicity of the film, the construction of the story is relatively complex. Written and directed by Steven Knight, who is an established screenwriter for the BBC, but just starting his career as a feature film director. Locke being his second outing as director is an impressive feat for such an inexperienced director. For the complexity of the narrative many writers and directors would have not restricted themselves so such a degree. Perhaps his inexperience led him to make the decision to take on that challenge, or an educated and calculated decision. Whatever Knight’s motivations for this choice, it paid off, and I applaud his calculation, and his audacity.
Locke is captivating and heartfelt as well as technically fascinating to watch, Tom Hardy delivers the performance of his career. 8.5 out of 10