Mark Reviews Movies

Locke

LOCKE

3 Stars (out of 4)

Director: Steven Knight

Cast: Tom Hardy, the voices of Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Tom Holland, Bill Miner

MPAA Rating: R (for language throughout)

Running Time: 1:25

Release Date: 4/25/14 (limited); 5/2/14 (wider)


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Review by Mark Dujsik | May 1, 2014

There are two things Locke makes certain about its eponymous protagonist: that he thinks he's made the right decision and that he hasn't weighed the options or considered the probable results of his decision in any substantive way. It's a recipe for disaster that, coincidentally, also happens to make for good drama.

That's important because the film is a monument to minimalism. There is one set—the interior of a car as it makes its way down a motorway to London—and only one character we see on screen—Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy). The action involves this character talking on the phone over the course of a long night's drive and occasionally rustling through some papers. The visual aesthetic is representative of dark, rainy night, lit by the headlights of passing cars, street lamps, and the LED glow of the car's dashboard console.

On the surface, this is material that would seem better suited to another medium, such as the stage or radio, but neither of those media would result in the same level of fly-on-the-windshield intimacy of writer/director Steven Knight's film. It has been argued that cinema's most essential artistic development is the close-up, and here, Knight seems to have set out to confirm that assertion.

The drama of the film is in Hardy's face—the uncertainty, the desperation, the pleading, the determination, the split-second choices he has to make as a result of the big one he has made, and, above all, the unnatural façade of calm he maintains even as he's confronted with the reality of his world crumbling around him. This performance has to be captured in close-up because so much of it is dependent upon the way his face confirms or betrays the words he's saying and the way he says them.

It's a one-man show for Hardy, whose innate intensity brings much urgency to this series of conversations. He has made his choice, and he seems surprisingly shocked that no one agrees with it. The shock is soon replaced by irritation as he can't comprehend why no one understands his rationale.  There's a sense that he will implode from the buildup of external information and conflict.

Locke is a supervisor for a concrete company, and at some point before the film starts, he has received a phone call. He gets in his car, starts along his normal route home, and, after some brief consideration, makes a sudden turn in a different direction.

He calls home to tell one of his two sons that he won't be home to watch the soccer game as originally planned. The kid is disappointed, but he wants to make sure his father is at least listening to the match on the radio, even if it's not the same. Locke's wife, too busy preparing food the night at home watching TV, isn't available to talk, and she'll probably have wished she hadn't returned his call.

He calls his boss to tell him he won't be at work tomorrow. It's the biggest non-military concrete pour in the country's history, the boss argues back. Does Locke know how important this is not only to the company but also to his very employment? Locke does, and he still says he won't be work in the morning. He'll be in contact with an employee he trusts to make sure the pour goes as well as if Locke had been there. The boss will have to call the corporate office in Chicago to make sure Locke currently has a job after so blatant a dereliction of duty.

In addition to his wife, children, boss, and employee, there's a sixth primary recipient of his phone calls: a woman in a London hospital. Knight reveals the information slowly, so that at first it's not clear if she's a family member, a friend, or a complete stranger, and in a way, she's all three—or at least she will be in a matter of hours if all goes according to plan (There's very little mystery once the film reveals the nature of Locke's relationship with this woman, so it might be beneficial to preserve the little it does possess). She's desperate for Locke to get to London, and it's that kind of distress that brought her into his life in the first place.

The final important player isn't a person or even an entity. It's his memory of his deadbeat father, whom Locke imagines sitting in the backseat of the car in clear view—but only to him—from the rearview mirror. In those one-sided conversations, we get a glimpse at Locke's anger, aimed at the man who left him as a child and at himself for getting into a situation where he could very easily turn into his old man. What he doesn't realize is that his situation is a catch-22. Whether he had chosen the way he has or another, the odds are against Locke ever becoming a better man than his father; that fate was written before the events of the film.

What we get with Locke is a fascinating study of a selfish man who has persuaded himself that he is selfless. Perhaps he is even starting to convince himself that he is a martyr for doing the "right" thing. He doesn't seem to care that others forgive him as long as he is able to forgive himself, and if that means sacrificing the life he's known and bringing a lot of pain in the process, then that's the price.

Copyright © 2014 by Mark Dujsik. All rights reserved.

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