Reviewed as part of the Sydney Film Festival 2014. Click HERE for screening information and to purchase tickets.
There isn’t too much excitement at the thought of watching one man on camera for almost an hour and a half, and the fact that he’ll be in a car for that whole time doesn’t help either. Well, talk about simplistic brilliance. If you’re going to make a movie with one character and one location, this is how you do it.
We meet Tom Hardy’s Ivan Locke as he climbs into his SUV, after a day of work as a construction supervisor. Via a series of phone calls, we get to know Locke intimately, not to mention the various issues that are about to have dire effects on his life. Locke is a man used to being in control; he has a loving family and is damn good at his job. We learn that his wife and children are expecting him to arrive at home in order for them enjoy a televised sports event as a family, alas, that won’t be happening.
The less said about the plot, the better. Locke is a tightly-wound thriller that works all the more the less the viewer knows. A true character study, Locke presents us with a three-dimensional man that, until now, has been mostly in control of his life. By no means perfect, Ivan Locke tries to keep a grasp on his quickly slipping life, determined to self-rationalise decisions and to persevere through escalating dilemmas.
If you’re going to be spending this amount of uncensored time with a character, you better hope you’ve got an actor that can manage. Ladies and gentleman, Tom Hardy is that man. Hardy, sporting a Welsh accent and a true-life cold, gives one of his finest performances here. We’ve known how good he is for some time now, but it’s this sort of pedestal that allows an actor to truly shine, and truly shine he does. He more than convinces in a role that requires us to not necessarily like him, but to be interested and captivated by what he’s going through.
Writer-director Steven Knight, who penned Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises, has crafted a great screenplay. The setting means that there isn’t much to cut to in order to drive home metaphors or to keep the audience awake, so it’s completely down to the dialogue to ensure that your attention is grabbed and that your emotions are affected. It’s impressive to see the film rocket along, while providing moments of humour and emotional complexity. Knight’s direction, too, is nicely fine-tuned to ensure that his lens is trained on Hardy’s face when the screenplay calls for it, which is often, and to give us shots of the road as breathers.
This may be Tom Hardy’s game, but the supporting players provide plenty as well. Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Ben Daniels, Andrew Scott and Tom Holland, while only heard, are all convincing in important roles.
In a time where studios aim for the bigger-is-better approach to filmmaking, it’s refreshing to see a film with the guts to experiment with the simplicity of the medium. While the idea of a one-man-one-location movie isn’t a new one, this is an excellent example of how riveting and thrilling filmmakers can make “small” films. The themes dealt with here aren’t grandiose and high-concept, they are all-too familiar and personal. Locke shows that no matter what the themes are, a well-drawn character and mature dialogue is all you need to deliver a suspenseful and affecting dramatic-thriller.
THE REEL SCORE: 9/10