Locke is a silent and concentrated movie about the morality of humans. The choices we make, and the consequences that follow.
We meet Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), a man with a wife, two children and a high-end position in a construction agency. The night before his most important business deal is supposed to be made, Locke gets in his car and drives. From here on out the movie takes place exclusively inside the car – with the camera outside from time to time. “A man drives to an undisclosed location”, is all you need to know about Steven Knight’s (writer of Eastern Promises) one-man ensemble movie.
To set a movie within a small confinement, and have one actor carry it from start to end, is not as unique as one would think – looking outside of the mainstream movie market we can find many examples (All is Lost, Moon etc). Rodrigo Cortés’ Buried from 2010 is one example of a terrific movie, though not without its flaws as a result of poor direction. Locke does not suffer the same, as it’s helped by the constant state of dynamic movement. Not just from the cars acceleration, but also from how the story is presented; the entire narrative is exposed to us by the way of phone conversations Mr. Locke has with a couple of people – from his wife to his boss – and it’s never silent inside the car.
Locke is a movie you don’t want to know too much about before you watch it yourself, but to say that this story explores human morality – and how you deal with the consequences of the past – is an accurate description. Ivan Locke is a man with a lot of trust within his company and his family, but when he leaves their biggest deal behind to be handled by an inexperienced friend, things quickly escalate and as people on the phone demand answers, his past comes to the surface.
One of the reasons it’s so impressive, is how Knight has managed to capture so much in such a restricted movie – both in terms of the location and the cinematic tools at his disposal. There is little to no narrative exposure outside of the phone conversations Ivan Locke has, but even so, the movie is a questionnaire in many different and important subjects. Is there a tangible definition of “a good man”? Is it your actions in the past, or how you decide to deal with them in the present that defines who you are? It’s questions asked countless times throughout the history of movies, but it feels fresh and unique in Locke because it’s grounded to one main character.
Because the movie asks so many questions, it never crosses the line to dullness. The dynamic movement mentioned above is also a good way to keep it fresh, within it’s confines of course. Justine Wright shows exceptional skills as an editor, and in many ways gives the movie an audiovisual feel in the same vain as Daniel Avery’s latest music video (Knowing We’ll Be There). The street lights work as a bright and dynamic double exposure over Hardy’s face – which is often reflected in the windshield to enhance said double exposure.
The low-key music by Dickon Hinchliffe (Winter’s Bone, Out of the Furnace) is used with care, and only makes itself known in a few scenes. The fact that it’s used so sparingly makes these scenes all the more impactful, and goes to show how much control he possesses when it comes to creating mood within his music.
It is however Tom Hardy who carries the movie on his shoulders. As one of the most interesting young actors working in Hollywood today, Tom Hardy has done it all; From the menacing villain, Bane in The Dark Knight Rises to the British agent, Ricki Tarr in Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy. He’s also played a charming spy in This is War just a few year after his brilliant portrayal of Charles Bronson in Nicolas Winding Refns, Bronson.
With all this in mind, it’s impressive that this is one of his best performances. Not only does he carry the movie, he breaths life in to its story. Without an actor there would be no movie, but without Tom Hardy, there would be no Ivan Locke. He plays on a submerged, but strong spectrum of feelings throughout the movie, and its incredibly impressive considering he plays off of the voices of his fellow actors.
Locke is low-keyed, but never dull. It asks many questions, but never pretends to answer them. Tom Hardy does not as much play a character, as he creates a person – a somewhat extravagant person at that. Its without a doubt the most accessible one-man ensemble movie in the past few years, but remains very strong and impactful.