Locke is a brave film, one that takes a refreshing level of risk to tell a story. It is an account of 90 minutes in the life of Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), a manager on a construction site, as he drives to London on the motorway one night. His interactions with other people come almost exclusively over the phone, attempting to deal with one crisis after another as a carefully maintained life begins to fall apart.
Any film that makes the decision to only use one on-screen character in its entire run time is gambling. It gambles on the audiences focus, it gambles on the story it is trying to tell and most crucially it is gambling on the performance that HAS to hold it all together.
In that final aspect especially, Locke is a gamble that pays off. Tom Hardy is superb, gripping the audience’s attention throughout (partly due to an occasionally jarring accent admittedly). It’s a consciously un-showy performance, one that focuses on subtle body language and the occasional emphatically delivered swear word to communicate a much deeper well of emotion.
The cinematography is impressive throughout, making the British motorway system look as beautiful as it perhaps ever has. Playing around with the way street lights and other cars illuminate a night drive, Locke manages to remain visually interesting despite its deliberately limited scope.
For a film that deals with a number of highly fraught emotional issues, it also benefits from resisting the temptation for melodrama, keeping the most intense conversations short and communicating an awful lot of pain in a minimum of words. It carries an emotional punch precisely because the film maintains the same level of emotional control that it’s central character strives to achieve.
As I hope previous entries on this blog have made clear, I adore big budget blockbusters and over the top action, but I also appreciate films that attempt to do a lot with very little and Locke is a great example of this.
It could undoubtedly have worked as a TV special, it’s budget and scope easily within the abilities of Channel 4 (who’s film wing partly funded the film), but I love breaking up the epic films with something like this, which uses the big screen and the immersion of the cinema to draw you into a much more grounded story.