Tom Hardy goes for a drive and makes some phone calls. Hardly the most riveting movie pitch of all time, but Locke is riveting nonetheless; a powerful, claustrophobic and emotionally draining experience.
Locke is the kind of film that it’s best to go into knowing absolutely nothing about the plot, beyond the fact that it involves the afore-mentioned night journey along the M6, and a series of phone calls which will change the life of the protagonist. Hardy’s tour-de-force performance as construction foreman Ivan Locke is quite remarkable, even if the Welsh accent does distract a little at first. The film also features fine vocal support from the likes of Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Tom Hollander and Andrew Scott.
As for writer/director Steven Knight, he really makes the most of his one-location set-up, building tension and a real sense of loneliness amid the inherently melancholy premise. In fact, I think the film has enough cinematic chops to be regarded alongside other staples of the “all-in-one-location” drama including Phone Booth, Buried and even 12 Angry Men.
I should add a warning for very strong language, but it all seemed contextually justified. There are also some interesting moral themes to ponder, including the wages of sin and its potentially devastating effect on families and careers. There are even hints of generational curses and the whole Greek tragedy thing of the sins of the fathers being revisited on their children.
In the end though, Locke is primarily worth watching as a reminder that great cinema needn’t be about vast battle scenes and epic special effects. Sometimes it’s about a close-up of an actor in one location giving a tremendous performance without a CG pixel in sight.