Review by Derrick Carter
Running Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
MPAA Rating: R for Language throughout
Directed by: Steven Knight
Written by: Steven Knight
Starring: Tom Hardy
One-location stories are always risky. The director throws up the possibility that the single setting might get boring and the dialogue driving the entire vehicle might wreck the whole thing. As far as the term vehicle, that’s more than appropriate in referring to Steven Knight’s LOCKE as the film revolves around a single car ride that forces one man to make some drastic life-changing decisions. Knight has become slightly known for covering some of the shadier sides of London in his previous work (REDEMPTION, DIRTY PRETTY THINGS). LOCKE follows the same kind of scenario but in a far more restrained, classy way.
It’s the night before a massive concrete pour that Ivan Locke is in charge of and he’s received some distressing news. This news has sent his life spiraling out of control. He is taking a 90 minute car ride to London in order to take care of some unexpected business. Locke makes a series of phone calls on his drive that upend his carefully constructed existence in every possible way. Ivan Locke is the only character the audience sees on the screen and every other person is regulated to a voice on the phone. This entire film is essentially a series of conversations between Ivan and his wife, co-workers, boss, and a mysterious other person. It doesn’t take too long to figure out exactly what happened and Ivan Locke doesn’t come off in the best light to the viewer. However, something is to be said for how Knight gets the viewer to understand why this character would go to the lengths he does to make things okay.
To say anything too revealing about LOCKE would be spoiling some of the surprises. The cinematography looks fantastic. Every frame looks crisp and the lighting is phenomenal. You might think that watching a guy drive down the highway would get repetitive and monotonous. However, Knight finds different angles and mixes up the visuals. Every so often a shot from outside the car appears, but other than those brief moments, this movie is confined inside a car with Tom Hardy. Speaking of which Hardy goes through a vast variety of emotions that range from sadness to anger, frustration to oddly calm, and the viewer is taken through every one of these feelings with him. There are small bits where things seem to going down a boring path. In the nick of time, Steven Knight throws in another gripping conversation or unexpected twist to shake things up. The movie is perfectly encapsulated within its short 85 minutes.
LOCKE plays out like a short film that was turned into a feature after some deliberation. The movie does require a significant amount of patience from the viewer, but many (including myself) will find it to be a rollercoaster ride of emotions. Ivan Locke doesn’t walk out of his car (and the movie) looking like the best guy around and he’s the kind of character that’s more than willing to admit to that. Steven Knight makes the film work with his ever-changing visual style and Hardy glues everything together with an impressive performance. Like some reviews I’ve written recently, my compiled thoughts on LOCKE aren’t exactly lengthy. In this case, it’s not that there isn’t much to say about this film in a bad way. Instead, revealing too much would spoil the compelling story and ruin some of the entertainment. LOCKE is a compelling little drama set in the space of a single car ride. It has become a tad overrated at this point. Some stretches involving the construction plot-thread do get repetitive. LOCKE is recommended for cinephiles who will appreciate this kind of storytelling and film goers who want something out of the ordinary.