Steven Knight (writer Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things) writes and directs this gripping one man show starring: everyone’s favorite screen sociopath, Tom Hardy. It’s a film reminiscent of the 2010 Ryan Reynolds film, Buried, in that it’s all about Tom Hardy, and revolves around a single important moment in his life. The film is simply about a man trying to make amends for one mistake, yet in attempting to set this one thing right, he’s at risk of losing everything else he has going for him. It’s an impressive character study. Some can argue the merits for and against his decisions at length, yet at the end of the day, right or wrong, what Ivan Locke does, as he makes a truly life changing decision real-time in one lonely evening on the highways of England, is admirable. Still, you know what they say about the best of intentions.
Now if you are going to put a character in front of an audience for 85 straight minutes, you best give them to somebody capable of holding our attention. And bar none, Hardy is nearly the best actor currently working. He oozes charisma, really sells the character and the story, and beyond that plays a role unlike anything in his past. From Bronson to The Dark Knight Rises, and from Star Trek films to gangster films, the character of Locke, an amazingly focused Welsh concrete engineer, allows Hardy to outdo himself and stretch his thespian muscles. The result here is one of the most fascinatingly simple men you’ll have the opportunity to see in film this year.
Even though 85 minutes doesn’t seem long compared to standard films run times, when all you see of Tom Hardy are his knuckles on the steering wheel and his bearded mug, things have the potential to become entirely tedious. Yet Steven Knight and his director of photography keep things lively, interesting, and almost hypnotic with a series of cuts and by fully utilizing the very few elements at their disposal on a highway, namely other cars, lights, and reflections of glass.
There’s a bit of intellectual/psychological depth you can infer as those reflections serve as a mirror, into which Locke is constantly pondering the consequences of his actions as well as trying desperately to avoid becoming the man his father was. Really there’s a lot of deep stuff going on here and Knight gives us only the barest of details which allow the audience project our opinions and ideas about the narrative as this symphony of plot and characters plays out brilliantly.
In fact, only about 90 seconds of the entire film takes place outside of the car. This is all Hardy and it is awesome. What is vastly impressive is how Ivan Locke keeps his cool while spinning plates masterfully on the phone and the calls with his wife, his former boss, his co worker, and his mistress, are handled and displayed in rapid succession, similar to conversations on The West Wing, yet not as frenetic. Don’t let the trailers fool you, this is not a chase film, this is not a revenge filmed, this is not a deadline crisis film. This is a drama, a highly interesting one at that, and it just so happens to deal with a man who his soul profession of building foundations is on the verge of losing his own familial foundations.
Locke, both the film and the character, have incredible duality, things that parallel each other in the film or so well crafted and better executed perfectly by Tom Hardy and director Steven night. It can be exhausting at times, and Hardy telegraphs his emotions so well and effortlessly portrays distress at this situation has put on him. Only acting against the voice of the other characters he still puts on an award-winning, or at the very least an awards worthy performance.
Between this and Richard Sheprad’s Dom Hemingway it seems that there’s a bit of a British Invasion going on and this is just yet another top drawer product from across the pond. Knight’s film is just a riveting affair that is carried confidently and expertly on the shoulders of its star Tom Hardy. Locke is yet another star-making performance in an already crowded and accomplished resume.