Director: Steven Knight
Cast: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman
Running Time: 85 min
Plot: Tom Hardy’s Welsh concrete salesman drives down a really long street called the M1, shouting at people who call him on his car telephone. Funny Welsh voice: It’s Tom Hardeeeee! I was twenty threeee years ollllld!
Locke director Steven Knight failed to win the hearts of the film going community with last year’s soho-set drama, Hummingbird (starring Jason Statham), but in casting Tom Hardy as the Welsh incarnation of Bane he’s tried to make up for that disappointing debut; ‘I am Statham’s reckoning!’
Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a man of substance, of logic, of practicality – he is a concrete man, literally. On the eve of an historic concrete pour for his company, Ivan the foreman blows off the biggest job of his life to drive to London for reasons which only the film should tell. Little can be said of the plot without spoiling it; mile by mile, phone call by phone call, the viewer learns what Locke’s been up to and why, after a lifetime of steadfastness, he’s suddenly acting like a maniac. Many of the revelations are a shock to Locke himself, and the film is mostly about how a normal working man processes the step by step deconstruction of his life ; as he makes his desperate drive South, his luck starts to head in a similar direction.
Even though he remains seated for the duration, Tom Hardy gives an extremely visceral performance as the foreman on the run. He growls, he strokes his beard, he drinks Benecol from the bottle and uses up an entire box of Kleenex to keep his man flu in check – combined with the lilts of his Welsh accent, the cold really makes it hard to separate his voice from the muffled aggression of Bane. Hardy is brilliant – you’ll never hear anyone say ‘The traffic is OK’ with such emotion ever again – but unfortunately his power, plus the insular nature of the set (a BMW five seater), renders the voice acting of the distressed phone callers pretty useless. Matter of fact, they become very irritating, especially when they interrupt the fascinating one way dialogue between Locke and his deceased – and much despised – father.
Since it plays out practically in real time, much of Locke feels like the bits of a 24 episode where they would normally cut away from Jack Bauer to something more interesting. Some of the relatives and colleagues that speak/shout at Ivan are very hard to relate to, and that’s to say nothing of the absurd irrationality on display. There are great voice talents (Olivia Colman, Alice Lowe), however, so this is more of a script issue than anything else.
Steven Knight wanted his new film to be a personal experience as opposed to a thriller. It’s about the disruption of ordinariness, not grand storytelling or big budget payoffs, and for a pacey (as in he drives fast) 90 minutes it’s fair to say that you’re Locked in to the scenario and the plight of Ivan. As mentioned previously, it’s a very close quarters film with a lot of snot, so claustrophobes and germaphobes beware.