Director: Steven Knight
IM Global/Shoebox Films
Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a dedicated family man. He’s overseeing the biggest concrete pour in Europe in a stressful job as construction foreman on a mega building development. We learn all about Locke’s world via hands-free phone conversations as he drives along the motorway. A split-second decision has Locke taking a different turn, this means he has to make a series of calls to work-related people, to explain his absence the following day when the big pour goes down. He’s a pragmatist. He calmly explains that he’ll oversee the pour from the telephone. He’s given clear instructions to everyone he needs to. Locke is a film about clear instructions. It’s unfair to spoil the plot any further, beyond saying that Ivan continues to make plans from his car. He needs to speak to his wife and children, to explain that he won’t be going home that night. He makes a series of other calls too – to a woman he met once, a while back. She’s in hospital. Locke continues driving.
The cinematic stunt of setting an entire film in a car seems to be what has driven Locke over the line for so many – calling it a remarkable thriller, fresh and hinging on an extraordinary performance. Hardy is wonderful, in what is essentially an exercise from a David Mamet weekend workshop – turned, almost stubbornly, into a film rather than devised for the stage.
It’s not a thriller. That’s just the tagline used since we don’t full know what’s, er, around each bend. And because to call it a drama would suggest that more happens beyond a series of phone calls.
Locke is remarkable while you’re watching it. But after it’s a bit like a scenic drive that had no purpose in terms of destination; ironic given the film’s aim of making it seem like the choice to take one particular turn is so earth-shattering. Locke is clever in its conceit. But at the same time the style of it (and the content) let it down. It can only exist in the those moments – a big problem with real-time film action, it only means something as it plays out. There are a lot of themes built up in Locke, there is a tension to it. But it all just falls away with no significant pay-off.
You’ll read everywhere else rave reviews of what a white-knuckle ride this is – when it’s frankly not. You’ll read about the hypnotic lure of simply hearing voices at the other end of the line. But it doesn’t ever go anywhere – at least not quite as the film leads you to think. Sure, it brings up interesting themes, sure it’s a brave idea. But it left me wanting more. And I couldn’t at all understand the rave notices this film had already received and continues to garner. To me it’s short of one crucial, vital ingredient – a punchline. A reason to exist after. A denouement. In the end, it felt like a waste.