It is one of the greatest challenges actors can undertake: carrying a movie completely by themselves. It is something Ryan Reynolds did in Buried and, for the most part, Tom Hanks and James Franco did in Castaway and 127 Hours, respectively. In Locke, that challenge falls to the talented Tom Hardy, who plays the entire movie in the front seat of a car with the film’s other actors only participating as voices on a cell phone.
Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a man who has dedicated his life to being the man that his father wasn’t. He sees himself as a good man. He is a loving husband and father, as well as a hardworking and successful construction manager. He has made only one mistake in his life, and unfortunately that mistake has come back to haunt him on this particular night.
After getting a fateful phone call, Locke leaves the worksite and begins the hour and a half drive to London to do what he feels is the right thing. Unfortunately, by doing what he feels is right, he is forced to abandon his post on the eve of the biggest day in his company’s history, as well as break the hearts of his wife and sons. He must do this in an escalating series of phone calls as he drives through the dark night.
As the film opens, we see Locke leave the construction site and get into his car, but beyond that the entire movie is him in the car. Hardy filmed his scenes over five consecutive nights. Director Steven Knight used three cameras and shot Hardy’s actions in single takes while the film’s other actors called in from a local hotel.
What results is a remarkable performance by Tom Hardy, something we have come to expect from the actor over the past few years. Hardy keeps the movie interesting from start to finish, despite there being no action in the movie to speak of. Even Ryan Reynolds, who spent the entirety of Buried in a coffin, shared an action scene with a snake. The closest thing Hardy gets to a visitor is his dead father, whom he has imaginary conversations with throughout the journey.
The conversations with his late absentee father do well to illuminate some of the character’s backstory and give us an understanding of why he seems so determined to remain calm and collected despite his world coming crumbling down around him. It also makes it all the more poignant when that shield of calmness itself begins to crumble.
The movie is all drama, which can wear a little on the audience as the movie goes along. Director Knight does give the audience occasional breaks from the claustrophobic drama by pulling away to long shots of the car traveling up the highway. A drunken colleague of Locke’s also checks in by phone occasionally, providing the film with some much needed comic relief.
Locke is worth seeing for Hardy’s performance alone. It is tough watching a man who has been so dedicated to be being a good man see that good life fall apart, but when that man is portrayed so well and with such depth, it is worth sticking it out. The movie also hints that there might just be some hope at the end of that next tunnel for its sympathetic character, making the film about more than just a disastrous night in a good man’s life.
Locke is rated R for “language throughout.” There is not enough space in the movie to have anything but language, but the language is deserving of the rating.
Courtesy of a local publicist, Jeff attended a promotional screening of Locke.