MRR Review: "Locke"

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A successful construction manager's life is drastically changed by a series of phone calls while he drives.
3.5

Rating: R
Length: 85 minutes
Release Date: April 25, 2014
Directed by: Steven Knight
Genre: Drama / Thriller

With "Locke," filmmaker Steven Knight gave a tall order to star Tom Hardy by making the film an intense one-man show. Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a successful construction manager who is only a few hours away from the biggest day of his career, which involves a record-breaking cement pour. The film follows Locke as he drives the 85 minutes from the construction site in Birmingham to London. It also takes place entirely in Locke's BMW as he drives. During the drive, the audience sees Locke take several calls from different people. All of these calls combine to threaten to change his life forever. Locke is someone who takes a lot of pride in his job. He makes sure that things are done correctly and done well. He is also a very responsible father to his children with wife Katrina, played by Ruth Wilson.

During the drive, Locke tells his colleagues that, in an uncharacteristic turn of events, he does not intend to be present for the important day on the work-site. It comes to light during subsequent calls that Locke is abandoning his work-site responsibilities to be present at the birth of his child in London by Bethan, played by Olivia Colman. Bethan is a woman with whom Locke had a one-night stand, which is something his wife learns over the course of the film. As the story of the film unfolds through the hands-free phone calls that are piped through the car's speakers, it becomes clear to the audience that one mistake in Locke's life stands to unravel his carefully constructed career and marriage.

"Locke" is a film that could have easily become uninteresting or claustrophobic for audiences, but it manages to maintain tension and interest from the moment that Hardy enters the screen until the end. Because of Hardy's tight schedule, "Locke" was filmed in only two weeks. One of those weeks was mainly devoted to rehearsals, and the second week was used for filming. The movie was filmed at night with only three cameras that changed angle and filters every 37 minutes. This was to give more visual variety to the film and capture the full spectrum of Hardy's facial expressions.

In a curious move, the movie was filmed in its entirety twice every night as Hardy and the crew made the drive from Birmingham to London in real time with the rest of the cast actually making the phone calls that the audience hears from a hotel conference room. The result is an added element of realism as the cameras capture the character's unfiltered reactions as Locke tries to untangle the issues that his affair created without unraveling his entire life.

Because Hardy is the only actor who appears on the screen, it is his performance that anchors the entire film. Hardy does a tremendous job of creating a realistic character that audiences can relate to without the benefit of being able to move around. The film avoids becoming claustrophobic by occasionally switching from medium close-ups of Hardy to wide shots that show the increasingly closer city and the area through which Locke is travelling.

Another large part of what makes "Locke" a mesmerizing film is the script from the movie's director and screenwriter, Steven Knight. At his core, Knight created Locke as a relatable character. When audiences encounter Locke, it is initially unclear what his backstory is and how he came to be in his position, but it is apparent that he is attempting to do the right thing. As the story unfolds, it becomes less about what Locke has done in the past and more about how he is trying to fix the situation for everyone involved while driving to the hospital. Locke is clearly attempting to be responsible even though the people in his life, including his sons, co-workers, Katrina and Bethan, act like he is being irresponsible and caring only for himself. As Locke is met with additional issues during his drive, audience members are pulled deeper into the story despite the fact that only one character ever appears on-screen.

While "Locke" does not have much in the way of physical action or scenic changes, it is high on tension and character development. The more audiences learn about Locke and his situation, the harder it is to turn away from the screen. The intensity of the script almost demands the audience's rapt attention, which is something that is freely given in the face of Hardy's compelling performance. The fast pace of the storyline diverts attention from the fact that the scenery rarely ever changes. Elements that might be expected to work against "Locke" are deftly turned in the film's favor by Knight, making the film not only work but become a truly entertaining experience for audiences.