Tom Hardy gives a brilliant performance in this utterly wrenching, low-fi, high-concept indie drama.
Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is having the worst day of his life. He has just left his construction job, and is expected at home to watch the football match on TV. Only rather than taking his usual route home, he pulls on the highway and just starts driving. While on the road, he begins calling co-workers, colleagues, and even his wife, explaining that he won’t be home tonight, and that the big, big job planned at his construction site tomorrow will have to be delegated to others. He is steely, determined, and in control. But there’s something going on. Why is he driving away with such fervor? Why is he so resolute to leave everything behind?
These questions will indeed be answered in Steven Knight’s Locke, but the answers will not be smooth or cathartic. Indeed, the film entire is ultimately an examination of how weak-willed Locke truly is, despite his smooth capability in handling complex situations. This is a film about the male psyche, and how we men – in spite of ourselves – tend to value control and steely determination over human sensitivity and actually doing what’s right. Locke has screwed a few things up (and I apologize for not being able to reveal what those things are), and is trying to make things right. Only he may not be making things right, and could perhaps be doing one of the selfish things in his life.
I apologize for being so vague, but, again, I don’t want to reveal the important dramatic twists that occur early in the film.
Knight has staged a film that plays like a stage drama. It’s one of those films that, on paper, seems unfilmable. There is one setting – the interior of a car – and only one actor on camera throughout the entire 85-minute film. We will hear voices over the telephone (including Olivia Colman and Ruth Wilson), but the camera has to linger on Tom Hardy by necessity of the location. The filmmakers could have cut away to the people he was talking to, given them miniature dramas of their own, but by locking us in with Locke, we begin to see how responsible he is, how sealed off he is from the people he is hurting. How his ultra-male lone wolf attitude is actually a detriment.
Hardy is equal to the challenge, and manages to make Locke into a whole human being who is simultaneously sympathetic and a bit of a scoundrel. By the film’s end, Locke has been revealed to be a deeply damaged man (the conversations he has with himself are illuminating), and his catharsis isn’t exactly cathartic. All we know is that some damage has been done, and he – a construction worker by trade – will not be able to repair it. This film is essentially a rebuttal to any and all male power fantasies.
Hardy is a muscular, passionate, and intense actor who cuts a silent and imposing screen presence. In Bronson, he was appealing as an oft-nude nutty supercriminal. In The Dark Knight Rises, he was a strange and compelling villain. In Warrior, he was a mean thug worthy of feeling. Ivan Locke may be his most “normal” role to date (those bouts of self conversation notwithstanding), as he is a mere man with domestic problems and skewed moral dilemmas. But Hardy enriches this seemingly stable man with a humanity that required a deft direction and a subtle actor-ly touch. And he did it all without a single break.
You won’t feel good at the end of the film; it’s most certainly a film about failure. But you may be elated by Hardy’s performance and by the strange dramatic velocity of the film.
Rating: 4.5 Burritos