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Review: Locke – Road trip redemption

Posted by on May 2, 2014 – 7:40 am

Locke If you had told me that one day I would love a small British film about a man driving alone in a car, talking on the phone for ninety minutes (with half of the conversation involving the details of a construction project), I would have said you’ve had one to many pints. But somehow, miraculously, the new film, Locke, pulls off this cinematic gimmick and is actually one of the best films so far this year.

The trailer for this movie is very ambiguous, and to be honest I really had no idea what this film was going to be about. It is billed as a suspense-thriller, and it certainly is that, but I think that label does a disservice to the dramatic depth of this very good movie. Written and directed by Steven Knight, Locke is the story of a man struggling to atone for his sins, and the sins of his father, desperately trying to do the right thing, at any cost.

The film begins with a man, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), getting into his car and driving off at the end of a working day. He hesitates at a stoplight then makes a turn that will forever alter his life and the lives of those he loves. From this point, as he drives, the man’s life unfolds with phone conversations between his wife, his children, his construction co-workers, his onetime lover, and his dead father.

Hardy is the only actor we see in this movie (all others are in voice only), and except for the first few moments of the film we never see Locke outside of the car. His life is crumbling apart and his shiny expensive BMW becomes increasingly claustrophobic as he speeds along the motorway, steady and determined to rectify a wrong.

Locke A good portion of the dialogue in this movie involves Locke’s large construction project and the concrete being delivered for it. Now this may sound like it would be about as interesting as someone describing a brick, but as he attempts to remotely oversee the build, the details of the mortar mix are fascinatingly analogous to the man’s life and to the issues he is experiencing.

Typically I deplore lengthy phone conversations in movies, especially when they involve the use of modern technology, but in this case the hands-free phone device in the car is integral to the story, as is the dialogue, and it all works perfectly in the context of the film. In fact it’s fun to see this story point out the limits of said technology.

The character of Locke is played as someone who is completely and calmly in control, until his stoic and even-keeled demeanor begins to fray around the edges; although he never becomes completely unhinged. The success of this movie rests on Tom Hardy’s performance, and he does an outstanding job of carrying the weight. The desperation, exhaustion, frustration, drama, and even the humor in this role is all boldly portrayed by him while sitting and driving up the road.

I walked (or drove) away from this movie, as I believe Steven Knight intended, thinking about all the internal conflicts potentially taking place in the cars beside me on the freeway, with each driver headed through the night towards some destination that might forever alter their life and the lives of people around them. Locke is a wonderful and unique film, brilliantly conceived and written, and masterfully executed. Grade: 8.5/10

LOCKE opens in Phoenix on Friday, May 2, exclusively at Harkins Camelview.

Photos © 2014 A24 Films