Review by-Jarrett Leahy
Ivan Locke is a devoted husband and father who’s established himself as a top construction manager in England. His latest job is a massive skyscraper that requires one of the largest concrete footings ever poured in Western Europe. However, on the eve of this most important professional endeavor, Locke receives a life-altering phone call that has the potential not only to threaten the future of his job, but his beloved family as well.
Locke is the creation and second directorial effort of Oscar-nominated screenwriter Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, 2002). With this story, Knight decided to strip down his drama to its essential idea: a man who is trying to do the right thing. A bad decision in Ivan Locke’s past has now brought about unintended consequences, and despite the ramifications that may arise, he deduces that he must take responsibility for his actions. This puts in motion a story that, for the most part, takes place inside Locke’s car as he drives the hour and a half to London while making a myriad of phone calls to his wife, kids, boss, and co-workers trying to rectify the residual effects of his decision. Watching a man drive and talk on the phone for 85 minutes may sound a bit dull to some, but Knight takes this relatively simple story and manages to create a fascinating and provoking melodrama that highlights one of this generation’s most gifted actors.
Over the last decade English actor Tom Hardy has built a resume of such accomplishment and role diversity that our lovely editor still has a difficult time recognizing him from one role to another. With Locke, the success of the entire film rests solely on Hardy’s shoulders, as there are no other actors on screen; he is the entire film. Hardy fully embodies the pain and frustration of a man who is trying to do the right thing and, in turn, watches as the career and family he so dearly loves are now both being put in peril. Hardy’s calm and deliberate delivery helps us better feel for this overly pragmatic man all while hiding the fear and anguish that is simmering just below the surface. Even if you don’t care for the film as a whole, I have a hard time believing you won’t be impressed by Hardy, as he offers one of 2014’s most accomplished performances.
Another highlight of Locke is the extraordinary nighttime setting created by cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos. Reminiscent of a Michael Mann film, Locke has some of the most hypnotically remarkable cinematography I’ve seen quite some time. Zambarloukos’ expert use of lights and harsh glares from surrounding traffic adds to the film’s distress and unease. He perfectly utilizes a wide variety of unusual reflections in the car’s many glass windows to help catch Hardy’s facial expressions as he tries to talk through the evening’s mounting problems. Zambarloukos, whose previous works include Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, Thor, and Mama Mia, is definitely a gifted cinematographer to keep an eye out for in the future.
While discussing the movie with Jason, his biggest concern was with how the film builds up this great tension and then just…ends. While the abruptness of the film’s final moments were less of an issue for me, I was a bit let down by Knight’s choice on how to end the film. While not giving too much away, there was an opportunity for Knight to deliver a far more consequential gut punch to the audience that I truly believe would have better fit the mood and feel of the film he had worked so hard to establish. Instead, Knight lets his viewer off the hook, and it is that choice that kept me from giving Locke a grade higher than I did.
Locke is a simple yet surprisingly moving drama filled with anxiety, suspense, and uncertainty as we experience the pain and anguish of a man who is trying to fix a life that is crashing down around him. Locke is a unique minimalist piece of cinema that skillfully manages to keep you engrossed while showcasing the bountiful acting gifts of its superstar lead Tom Hardy.-JL