You probably know of Locke (2013) as the Tom Hardy driving around alone in a car film. In some ways that is pretty accurate. On a surface level that is what the film involves and if it was a different person in the driver’s seat it would be a very different and probably not as good film. But the film also goes beyond the gimmick it is based on to be something a little more satisfying.
Essentially, the film features Tom Hardy’s Ivan Locke driving in pretty much real time to attend the birth of his child. A child that is the result of an ill-advised affair he had whilst away from home on business. The story is driven forward by a raft of phone calls that Hardy has as he drives. He talks to his bosses who are infuriated that he will not be there for a high risk day of work, his kids, the woman having his child and perhaps most tellingly his wife. I have heard Locke described as a thriller which I don’t really think it is. But considering the film through the prism of thriller tropes is an interesting way to approach it. Especially as the ‘thrills’ come from much more domestic and relationship based places, rather than the guns and high stakes threats we generally expect. At times the film plays like a tribute to the purity and simplicity of filmmaking. When Ivan tells his wife why he is making an unexpected road trip is one such moment, with Hardy and the unseen Ruth Wilson conveying all of the emotion that the scene requires and then some. No explosions, no nothing else required.
Of course a huge amount of the success or otherwise of a film with a concept such as this is the strength of Tom Hardy’s performance. Luckily he seems close to incapable of being poor onscreen and this film is no different. He brings everything he has to this role, perhaps knowing that the whole film rests on his shoulders. There’s an awesome accent, delivery that emphasises the dry humour of the script and a face that conveys the emotional pitch of the narrative without ever feeling as though Hardy is reaching to get it across. The other aspect of the film that is so fundamental to it working is the script. One approach to a high concept film such as this is to just have it be a 120 minute. But rather than have the storytelling be as stand-alone as that, the script delivers an entire character arc for Ivan all whilst he is sitting in his car. We see him grow, see him reflect on his past and decide on his future in a very real, very satisfying way. The only aspect of the script that jars is the couple of instances where Ivan is talking to himself or his deceased father. There is nothing particularly terrible about these parts, but it seems like an unnecessary flash of melodrama when the standard approach is working so well.
Verdict: Locke is both a character study of a complex individual brought to life well by Hardy and a satisfying story. The fact that this tale told through mobile phone calls delivers full character arcs and never seems contrived is a testament to not only Hardy, but also to the work of director Steven Knight and the writers of the film as well. Pint of Kilkenny