Wow! Something unexpected; something original: One man in a car driving down a freeway (in this case, a motorway) heading into London, England, talking to one person after another on his car phone as his life falls apart around him. That’s the entire film. The only actor we see in Locke is Tom Hardy, who plays Ivan Locke, a construction manager who decides to leave his worksite on the eve of his biggest workday ever in order to be at the side of the woman giving birth to his child, even though the woman in question is not his wife and he only ever spent one night with her. As they say in England, everything goes pear-shaped in a hurry and this two-hour drive to London will be the longest drive of Locke’s life.
As in the last one-actor film I watched (All is Lost), to make such an original idea work, you need a fantastic acting job and a brilliant tightly-written screenplay. Locke (like All is Lost) has both. I was completely sold by Hardy’s performance, right down to the allergy or cold symptoms Locke struggles with while one person after another tries to make his life miserable. Hardy deserves an oscar for this awesome work. And Steven Knight (who also directed) wrote what felt like a great play, with dialogue that not only gives us deep insight into Locke’s character but also gives us the story of a man trying desperately to do the right thing while being punished for it at every turn. In other words, Locke carries a strong emotional punch and leaves lots of thought-provoking ideas behind. Great stuff!
Unlike All is Lost, Locke did require other actors to provide voices, which also worked well. And while you wouldn’t think the cinematography would amount to much when 90% of the film is seeing Locke drive his car, it needs to be very good indeed to keep us engaged and convey the constant sense of movement. It’s flawlessly done.
Locke is not the kind of film that will appeal to a wide audience. I read in two places that it was a thriller. I’m not sure who created that lie, but I assume it was done to lure a broader demographic to the theatre. The fact is there is absolutely nothing in Locke which would qualify for the use of the word ‘thriller’. This is pure drama from start to finish. And it’s pure drama at its finest. **** for another top ten contender in what has been an excellent spring (though some of these great films were made in the UK in 2013). My mug is up.