Thursday, 18 December 2014

Film Review: Locke

Losties despair! This isn't the long-awaited spin-off movie about John Locke, the stoic bald headed nutjob from Lost who regained the use of his legs. I'm sorry you have to hear the bad news from me.

The good news is, it's actually better than that! Instead, Locke a claustrophobic thriller that charts a fateful car ride for building site manager Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy). Buckle up, things are about to get a little tense.

Locke isn't your typical kind of film. It's an oddly simplistic premise, one that shouldn't work on film and yet somehow is executed brilliantly. Almost entirely set within the confines of one man's car, it's like a bottle episode or a one-man theatre piece. That it still manages to hold the audiences attention for the entire runtime within such a limited framework is a combination of many interlocking elements, the most notable of which is its lead (read: sole) performance from Tom Hardy.

Hardy is an actor with immense range and charisma, something which was criminally restricted in some of his bigger roles such as Bane in The Dark Knight Rises. In the past, I've found that Hardy has prospered when included amongst a diverse and varied cast, such as in Inception, This Means War (even if the film is meh, Hardy is good) and Lawless.

Locke then presents a challenge as an actor, but also an opportunity to showcase what one is really made of. Hardy, thankfully, doesn't disappoint and is absolutely riveting as a man whose life is collapsing around him. His performance, like any bottle episode, is packed with emotional nuance and wall-to-wall expression. It's subtle, but impactful stuff with Hardy commanding your attention from start to finish.

Set in real-time, Locke sees Ivan driving from Birmingham, England to London, about 90 minutes away through the night. It's a lonely drive, but for Ivan everything is coming to a head through a series of increasingly desperate and revelatory phone calls - his infidelity with a colleague, her subsequent pregnancy, his now increasingly disillusioned wife and a well-made plan at work falling through. With his marriage, home life and job under threat, Ivan becomes increasingly desperate and distraught - and the genius part is, we never get to see any of these other characters. Just Ivan, his car and his hand-free bluetooth.

We learn everything we need to know through expertly written dialogue, as well as some really clever monologues between Ivan and his 'father', whom has passed away and he is seeing in the backseat of the car. It's also really well paced, and doesn't feel tedious. We learn fresh details about Ivan's life throughout the film, enough to keep us engaged and wanting more. Some may write the film off as being too trivial, gimmicky or 'kitchen sink', but I liked that both the crew and cast wrung everything they could from a clever, simple premise. I found that it wasn't so much a pulse-pounding thriller as much as an intriguing character piece where we slowly see this guy's world crumble.

Big praise must also be heaped upon the director, Steven Knight. It can't be easy working within such a confined space, but Knight keeps things motoring along nicely with a blend of close-up shots of Hardy's brilliant performance and more atmospheric shots of the road, the car and reflections on the windshield. Haunting, lonely and deceptively simple.

The Verdict: 8/10

Locke is a gripping, emotionally-charged study of a fatally-flawed family man and one fateful midnight drive. Anchored by a stellar performance from Hardy and gorgeously framed with some inventive direction, Locke is a short and sweet film that doesn't overstay its welcome or overstretch its ambition.


  1. Nice review, Rhys. Considering what this movie was about and how it was filmed, I found the execution to be particularly impressive all around as well. Good stuff here. :)

    1. Thanks Chris :) It was slightly different to what I was expecting, but I impressed and entertained nonetheless :)



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