Locke Review

Locke, written and directed by Steven Wright and starring Tom Hardy

Ivan Locke drives a BMW. I own a Mazda 6. Since I got it a month ago, I’ve been using any excuse to go for a drive. The acceleration is powerful, it handles smoothly, and it looks great. Yet as much as I love my Mazda, it’s still, in essence, a way to get from point A to point B. So is Ivan’s bimmer, but on the night that Locke takes place it becomes his cocoon, one in which he must confront the problems of his past, present, and future. And there’s no doubt that when he emerges things will never be the same.

Ivan (played by Tom Hardy) is a family man with a wife and two boys. He’s got a successful job as a construction foreman. He’s a methodical man, the kind who sets goals and then charts a course to achieve them. That’s what makes him good at his job. It makes him a good provider. It makes him unlike his father. But, as my high school teacher Mr. Feltzin taught me, the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.

On the night before the biggest construction job of his career, Ivan learns that a woman he recently had an affair with is going into labor with his child. He’s currently about an hour and a half away from the London hospital in which she’s giving birth. About two minutes after the start of the movie he gets in his car and starts driving to her. We, the audience, get to join him for that drive. In real time.

That right there is probably going to scare away a large number of viewers, but it’s exactly what drew me to Locke. I’m enamored by movies (and TV episodes) that take place in one location in a condensed amount of time. When done well they can provide an enormous amount of tension and drama. All you have to focus on are the people, their predicaments, and their relationships. There are no distractions. If the story is about a group of people trapped in one place, then every bit of interpersonal tension is exacerbated by the fact that no one can leave. If it’s a solitary person trapped in one place, the draw is often that empathetic bond that is quickly established between the audience and protagonist. When you connect with a character in that way, like in 127 Hours and Buried, you become willing to watch them do just about anything in service of solving their problem. You become invested. Assuming the acting is good.

Locke, written and directed by Steven Wright and starring Tom Hardy

The acting in Locke is very good. I don’t know how many actors could be as captivating as Tom Hardy is in this role. Ivan spends almost the entirety of the car ride on the phone, speaking with his wife, his children, his mistress, his employee, and more, trying to fix the relationships that he’s put in jeopardy. It never once gets boring. You are always engaged. I don’t even know if I like Ivan, but I loved watching Tom as Ivan. The thing is Ivan has such a direct, matter-of-fact quality about him, that he seems cold and brutish. He attempts to solve his relationship problems the way he solves every other problem in life: by charting a course and attacking the matter head on. Tom Hardy is able to show us more than just that exterior though. We can see that there’s a real, feeling being beneath his robotic efficiency. I think a lot of actors could end up unlikeable in this role, but Tom doesn’t. He gets you to root for Ivan. Even more impressive, he gets you to want to be in that car with him.

The idea of concrete gets tossed around a lot in this movie. Ivan of course works with concrete. He has an immense respect for it, understanding how vital a sound foundation is for any structure being built. His wife complains about how he’s always dragging it into the house on the bottoms of his boots. You could say he’s a rigid man who’s set in his ways as if they were concrete. His love for the material is actually a running joke in the film. So it’s fascinating to watch what happens when the very foundation of his life—his family and career—starts to crack beneath him. And the great irony is that his only real option is to pour in more concrete to try to strengthen the base.

I liked this movie a whole lot, and now that I’ve written about it I like it even more. If you appreciate a really character-driven movie (pun not intended, but very welcome), if you want to spend 85 minutes in a BMW with an earnest man dealing with the repercussions of a foolish mistake, and if you don’t mind spending that 85 minutes looking at Tom Hardy’s bearded face, then this movie is for you. It’s probably the most interesting, life changing car ride you’ll ever watch.

My Rating

I liked it
Writer and Director: Steven Knight (Eastern Promises and Closed Circuit [screenplay], Redemption [directed])

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