One man. One car. Many phone conversations. You may be thinking to yourself “this sounds like my average drive home.” To your credit, you’d be right. This is also the concept for this film, but there’s so much more to it than that. Below the surface of our everyday lives, we all have internal struggles and we often emote while we talk. Hell, everyone changes who they are when they talk on the phone and sometimes, those phone calls aren’t always pleasant ones. Nonetheless, there’s a lot going on during a drive home and you should never judge based on the fact that these things happen everyday. That doesn’t make them any less extraordinary.
After a long day at work, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) gets into his car and begins driving. Where he’s driving, we’re not entirely sure of. That is, until Ivan phones his wife (Ruth Wilson) and family, to let them know that he’s not going to make it home for the game and he won’t be back until tomorrow. Then, Ivan makes a call to a distressed woman named Bethan (Olivia Colman), who claims she’s about to go into labor. The next call goes to his coworker, Donal (Andrew Scott), as Locke tells him that he won’t be present for the big cement pouring the next day. The last call goes to his boss, Gareth (Ben Daniels), whom he informs that he won’t be present at work the next day.
Over the course of an 90-minute drive, Ivan makes countless phone calls in an effort to fully explain his predicament and the obligations that he has. This includes telling his wife about his affair, leaving his company in a time of need, and handling all sorts of awful situations over the phone. While the others may react in various ways, Ivan is set on his path and is looking for the next logical step to take in each situation. His past and his absentee father also play a large role in Ivan’s decision-making and it’s unclear on whether or not Ivan can follow through with his plans and how he will handle the world that’s collapsing around his ears.
Locke finds a way to be completely different in terms of your average film, while still managing to find familiar beats that people can relate to. For being a one-man-show that takes place in a singular setting, Locke maintains your fascination with the titular character and his ongoing dilemma. This film defies all the rules of your average expectations of a film and it manages to present an intimate stage play within the realm of film.
Tom Hardy is simply phenomenal as Ivan Locke. Hardy is easily one of the best actors of our time and his ability to fully immerse himself in demanding roles is an incredible feat. As Locke, he provides certain facial quirks and expressions that clue you in to his emotions on the matters at hand, as well as certain physical and mental expressions that paint an even clearer picture of his psychosis. It’s extraordinary to watch Hardy make call after call and completely shift his tone and attitude, given whom he’s speaking with. There are even times where Locke talks to himself and the state his sanity comes into play and Hardy masters these moments as well. His eyes and expressions tell the story and keep you so deeply invested.
It’s easy to dismiss this film as a “boring car ride where nothing happens”. That will be true for a lot of moviegoers, because they’re not used to such a “simple” concept for a film and couldn’t understand how Tom Hardy talking to others and himself could be so amazing. This film doesn’t rely on anything besides its actors and its wonderful writing and direction. There are some awesome stylized shots in the film and a lot of close-ups that make Hardy’s emotions easier to read. More than anything, this is a film about an average person, because everyone deals with life and we all have to make those hard calls sometimes. Locke is an ordinary person, whose predicaments lead to a lot of moral ambiguity and decision-making that has to take place on the go. The concept of filming everyday interactions, in this case phone calls in the car, is brilliant and completely relatable for anyone who’s ever done that.
Director Steven Knight is an Oscar nominated writer (Dirty Pretty Things) and with Locke, this film almost seems the opposite of what you’d expect from him. I was fortunate enough to interview him for this film and a lot of what we discussed was about the reality of Locke’s situation and about how this film captures reality so well. We all act whenever we call someone. Whether it’s your parents or your friends, you change the inflection in your voice and you become a different person for each call. Knight brilliantly displays this, as his lingering shots of Hardy take us through many different facades that he puts on while talking to his wife, sons, co-worker, and boss. The phenomenon isn’t new, but it’s the first time that it’s been the central point of a film and that intimacy that you have with Hardy is unbelievable.
Watching this film unfold is very unique and layers are added on to that uniqueness when you have the rest of the cast only showing off their voices. Despite Hardy being the star of this film, his reactions come from the dialogue and delivery of his co-stars who were reading their lines at a hotel somewhere. A lot of this film relied upon its actors playing well off of one another and they did just that. This film and its characters also manage to come off as funny at some points, because irony and humor in tense situations is often found in real life. There’s a bit of every emotion in this film and it’s all conveyed through facial expression and voice and that’s true talent. This film manages to suck you in for the whole ride and by the end, you’re wishing there was more.
Locke is another successful film from distributor A24 and it’s among the best that I’ve seen this year. I know that it’s premise and indie-persona will send some people the other direction, but I plead you all to go and see this when it comes to a theater near you. You simply must. In a time where originality and diversification in films is waning, Locke is here to save the day. It’s unlike anything else you’ll see this year and Tom Hardy’s performance is Oscar-worthy, without a doubt in my mind. There’s a lot of everyone in this film and I think it’s important that this film makes waves, because I genuinely believe that people will love it as much as I did.