By Simon Miraudo
June 8, 2014
Steven Knight‘s Locke makes us ride ‘shotgun’ with Tom Hardy for 85 minutes and doesn’t let us out until the final credits roll. There are worse people to be stuck in traffic with. Carrot Top. Piers Morgan. Literally any Jenner. The makers of 1996 flop Carpool tested the limits of human patience by keeping us in a contained space with both David Paymer and Tom Arnold, while Rebecca Black’s perky single Friday turned the simple decision of choosing a seat in the front or back of the vehicle into an existential nightmare of Kafkaesque proportions.
So, Hardy, the intense, chameleonic star of Warrior, The Dark Knight Rises, Inception, and Bronson, by comparison, is as comforting a companion as one could hope for. A shame, then, that his character’s night drive should be so self-destructive and difficult to watch unfold. His Ivan Locke is a reliable husband, father, and construction manager, until the moment he steps into his car and begins driving to the hospital where a former fling is about to birth his lovechild. On the eve of the cement being laid for his biggest building yet, Ivan has to call his bosses and inform them that he won’t be available to oversee this gargantuanly important task. It’s career suicide. It’s also nothing compared to the pain that comes after breaking the news to his wife (Ruth Wilson) about his one-time affair, and the resulting pregnancy. Whether or not he should have waited until returning home to drop that particular bombshell is a question to be asked by people who want their high-concept movies to end after ten minutes.
Hardy is a hulking physical presence, so containing him behind a seatbelt for the entirety of a film is a bold gambit that, surprisingly, pays great dividends. With an odd accent (Welsh?), he calmly ruins multiple lives – including his own – only hinting at the turmoil and rage simmering beneath the surface. He’s painted as a man who has long been in control, and he even mentions how “Lockes [came] from a long line of s****” until he took the initiative to rebuild the family name. He keeps asking his wife for “practical next steps” and calming his pregnant paramour (Olivia Colman) about the baby being in breach by telling her to rely on the doctor’s “practical steps” and practically informing his colleagues of the correct steps to get the job done right without him. He’s a hugely practical guy, with an ordered life, and we get to see what happens when someone like that implodes.
Knight – who also wrote the screenplay – does well to keep us compelled throughout Locke‘s running time, with editor Justine Wright calibrating the frantic pace depending on the nature of Ivan’s drive and conversation at any one moment. Most flicks set in the one location dare audiences to check their watch, if only to confirm that this audacious effort will indeed reach a feature length. Locke almost pulls it off. Once the circumstances of Ivan’s disastrous drive have been revealed, a late attempt at his redemption rings false. I’ll believe a life can fall apart in 85 minutes, but can it really be saved too?
Locke plays the Sydney Film Festival June 8 and 9, 2014.