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
- Not Suitable for Children (2012), Peter Templeman – A cracker of a script brings this inner-west Sydney comedy to life. Not afraid to confound expectations, the film also delivers a healthy quota of genuine laughs. Refreshingly frank about booze, drugs and sex this excellently performed piece is the kind of Aussie film you really hope finds an audience. Also features the most fantastically awkward sex scene ever.
- East West 101: Season 1 (2007), Steve Knapman & Kris Wyld – This is an intriguing Aussie cop drama. There are definitely annoyances – shaky, hyperkinetic camerawork and individual storylines that are not always satisfying – but the storyline of Malik and his father is really well drawn out. The exploration of race, despite some initial clumsiness, also comes to satisfy by the season’s excellent (and genuinely shocking) conclusion.
- This Means War (2012), McG – I’m a big fan of all three leads in this – Pine, Witherspoon and Hardy. This is nice and light, there is no real sense of tension but the action scenes are good. The script is not great, especially the early establishment of Pine’s character and the motivation of all the characters is often warped. But in the end, this is genuinely funny and well performed, with Chelsea Handler as Witherspoon’s best friend almost stealing the show.
- The Amazing Spiderman (2012), Marc Webb – This is a fun film that looks great. But there is no denying that much of what is covered was done better by the first Raimi film. Andrew Garfield is a little hit and miss in the title role but Emma Stone is her usual delightful self. Unfortunately very little of the welcome humour that characterised the trailer is transferred to the final film. But despite all of this, the film is still more than enjoyable enough popcorn fluff.
- Batman Begins (2005), Christopher Nolan – This incredible film has come to sit somewhat unfairly in the shadow of its phenomenal sequel. Nolan’s first Batman flick is a really dense, multifaceted origin story which remains extremely accessible to non-comic book readers. The script expertly establishes the characters’ values and psychology above all. Katie Holmes’ performance in this is really underrated; I think she does better than Maggie Gyllenhaal who replaced her in the sequel. The film finishes on one of my all time favourite sequel setups as well.
- The Dark Knight Rises (2012), Christopher Nolan – As a standalone film, this is imperfect. However as the closing film of the trilogy, it is pretty darn close to perfection. The quibbles for me include the late twist, OWS references which veer into the overwrought and resolution of the main action that is not 100% successful. But I loved much of this. There is a couple of cracking action set pieces, the setup for the sidequel/spinoff is masterful and personally I was a huge fan of the ending. Michael Caine is amazing in a small role whilst Joseph Gordon-Levitt in detective mode is very good.
- Magic Mike (2012), Steven Soderbergh – I really liked this. On the surface this is a tale of male strippers. But there’s some (not too much) added depth here. Channing Tatum has a real charm and presence about him onscreen, as does female lead Cody Horne who is delightful despite occasional stilted line delivery. Biggest accolades must go to director Soderbergh though who is in good form, keeping proceedings zipping along rapidly, even as the action threatens to become predictable.
Not Worth Watching:
- Brave (2012), Mark Andrews & Brenda Chapman – As far as animated films go, this is decidedly average. For a Pixar film it is utter pants. Technically, they continue to improve but it seems too much effort has gone into making Merida’s hair look amazing, and not enough into making the narrative amazing. This is a tepid tale, totally lacking in any Pixar distinctiveness or subversiveness.
- Safe House (2012), Daniel Espinosa – Cool idea. A CIA traitor just saunters into the American embassy in South Africa. Especially when you add in the fact that the traitor is played by none other than Denzel Washington. But this film never gets off the ground, making you wonder why anyone bothered. The action scenes are surprisingly sparse, and when they arrive they are annoyingly, shakily shot. Denzel is surely the most watchable actor of his generation, but even he can’t make this worth your while.
If you only have time to watch one The Dark Knight Rises
Avoid at all costs Brave
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