Melbourne, Melbourne International Film Festival 2014

Locke, MIFF 2014

1 Comment 04 August 2014

Aside from the opening shot, Steven Knight’s Locke  is shot entirely in or around the BMW of title character, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), as he makes the motorway trek from Birmingham to London. Ivan is composed, the traffic is okay, but his personal and professional lives will be in tatters by the close of the film. The drama is delivered throughout the car ride in the form of phone calls to and from Locke, who manages to single-handedly destroy his reputation as a good man via his phone’s Bluetooth. The whole single-subject, single-location aspect may seem like a gimmicky touch, but Locke surpasses the potential for tackiness; it is nail-biting, engrossing and genuine.

Without knowing too much about Locke, the first guess might be that he gets caught amidst some crazy Statham-esque occurrences. By contrast, the content of the film is truly ordinary, and yet you still find yourself swept up in it, agonising over who it might be on the other end of that robotic “call waiting” voice.

The real spectacle of Locke is the titular character; a good (?) man who is fixated on his black-and-white interpretation of good and bad, unapologetically resolute in the atonement that he is journeying towards. Hardy is absolutely enthralling as Ivan Locke; the attention to detail in his reassuring Welsh burr and pained expressions at odds with both the gravity of the situation and his unyielding allegiance to the decision he intends to follow through with. The result is an enigmatic character that we yearn for more of, who we marvel at as the ramifications of his decision continue to unravel. It’s a testament to the actor, who has played such outlandish characters as Charles Bronson, Bane and Handsome Bob, that he can produce the same awe-inducing effects with so little. It truly is a pleasure to watch Hardy revel in the single-subject, single-location method of filming.

Locke is expertly paced, whetting our appetites for knowledge and resolution as the reality of Locke’s present situation unravels precisely and organically. Every step in the chain of events feels real, even the scenes where Locke faces his deeply personal reasons for carrying out this destructive decision. In these moments, Locke breaks his composed telephone persona to confront the demons of his past in the rear-view mirror. Taking a step back, these scenes could appear somewhat ridiculous, but Hardy gives them life, his restrained madness resonating with the powerful diction of Daniel Day-Lewis as oil tycoon Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood.

At times slightly bogged down at times by laborious visual effects, Locke is bolstered by a fascinatingly restrained script (although you would expect no less from Knight, screenwriter of the brilliant Eastern Promises) and a superb supporting cast. The incoming and outgoing callers are emotionally masterful and at times darkly comic, bringing us a familiarity that may have seemed impossible given their faceless roles.

Locke is a character piece of an intriguing and perplexing man, who believes he is good and moral, yet doesn’t utter an apology until he has driven almost a hundred miles away from his family and career. It fleshes out the difference between good and bad, and the importance of doing what’s right no matter the cost. Locke is ultimately blown out of the water by a powerhouse performance from Hardy, who manages to breathe a boggling amount of life into such a sparse setting, and keep us on our toes until that last phone call.

4/5 stars

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This post was written by who has written 14 posts on Buzzcuts.

Alexandra Schnabel exclusively watches high-concept documentaries, arthouse films and Law and Order: SVU re-runs (Stabler era only). She reviews two of three here sometimes.

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