This is actually something new, brave, innovative, bold. One guy in a car, travelling down a motorway. That’s it. He’s got a one-night-fling in labour (“she was not exactly an oil painting”), a wife going ballistic, an unknowing son earnestly transmitting football scores and a desperate attempt to remotely manage a multi-million dollar cement pour, with all of this completely realistic turmoil occurring via his hands free device. The whole film is Tom Hardy driving in a car speaking on the phone. It goes completely against preconceptions of cinema and it equates to riveting, uniquely nerve jangling drama.
Tom Hardy is absolutely superb. This cannot be overstated. He completely transforms himself into Ivan Locke, melting down but just about staying controlled. His Welsh accent is one of the prettiest, most soothing things I’ve ever heard and if no one’s considered the obvious marketing opportunity to turn Ivan into a sat nav then the film’s missed its first trick. It’s an absolutely brilliant and empathetic piece of acting by Hardy to make this man who we only see behind the wheel feel more real than any amount of skipping or jumping could accomplish. Everything has to be performed in this single setting using his facial expressions and voice, both of which compliment each other perfectly to create this immediately relatable figure. The script buzzes, straddling humour with pitiful misfortune and an utterly believable dramatic tension, whilst the characters on the other side of the telephone (voiced by Olivia Colman and Ruth Wilson to name just two) do so much work to keep the chaos boiling. The concrete must be poured, the baby must be delivered, his wife must be calmed. “I will fix this”, Ivan keeps saying to himself. His conviction is sincere, his mannerisms expertly judged by Hardy with a compelling inner turmoil.
Steven Knight (surprisingly the creator of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?) is the genius behind this tour de force. As the writer and director, he creates so much with what seems like so little. Shot entirely in a car on a night time motorway, it’s staggering that he manages to keep things visually engaging with some gorgeous reflection and flare to provide each image with so much texture, no doubt owing much gratitude to the cinematography of Haris Zambarloukos. Every single possible angle is creatively considered and engineered to make something interesting. The audience is placed so firmly within that car, moving quickly towards its destination whilst the phone rings with more ferocity.
It’s a furious, dramatic portrait of a life crumbling rapidly. Knight and Hardly have captured an incredibly powerful, sharp and inspired piece of cinema. It ends at exactly the right point and at only 85 minutes it’s remarkably tight, with each phone call completely necessary to the film’s dramatic function. The pouring of concrete has never seemed so dramatic and you don’t even see an ounce of the stuff. You don’t see much of anything, but you can feel the weight of it all collapsing. I’ve never seen a film quite like this before. Locke is outstanding.
Locke is out on 18th April in the UK and 25th April in the US. Running time 85 mins. Certificate 15 (UK).
Review by David Rank