Construction site foreman Ivan Locke is on his way home from work when he makes a decision to go somewhere else instead, beginning a long journey that will alter his life and the lives of several others forever.
The entirety of Locke takes place in one location with a single character on screen the whole time. This isn’t a particularly revolutionary idea (see 2010’s Buried, for example), but it’s one that, if done well, can prove incredibly effective. However, if handled poorly it can ultimately feel gimmicky and cheap. Fortunately, Locke is very much the former.
We begin with Tom Hardy’s Ivan Locke in the car as he presumably heads home after a day at work. However, he suddenly changes his mind and heads off somewhere else. Where? Well that’s part of the mystery. On the way he talks to various people on the phone as he tries to fix some particular problems in his life. Who’s he talking to? What are his problems? Again, all part of the mystery.
See, Locke is best approached knowing as little as possible. A huge part of the experience is being kept largely in the dark about exactly what’s going on and the eagerness to see how it unravels. Details are kept scarce, teased out as the minutes tick but bring up just as many questions as answers. This all makes the film incredibly tense; more so than you’d expect. All this, combined with the frenetic cinematography and score ensure that you’re always on the edge of your seat.
When it comes to our central character, Ivan is a man to which many people will be able to relate. He has some major problems in his life, but ones that he seems determined to sort out and is someone who believes in doing the right thing, no matter the personal ramifications. We see the effects that even the smallest decisions can have, not just on Ivan but on those all around him, and all this is handled superbly by both director Steven Knight and Tom Hardy.
When a film has a single lead (Locke features a few secondary performances from people at the other end of a telephone) then its imperative you have a central performance to carry the film, and Hardy does so with aplomb. His slightly iffy Welsh accent aside, Hardy is masterful as Ivan; nearly always methodical and purposeful in his delivery, yet giving us glimpses of something slightly sinister and disturbing just under the surface. He makes it almost impossible to decide whether Ivan is a man we should like and trust and as such keeps us on edge the whole time.
Locke isn’t a film that everyone’s going to get along with. Despite it clocking in at under 90 minutes, some may find it a little too slow and devoid of action, especially if they’re expecting a more traditional thriller, which the film has often been billed as. The ending will also likely infuriate some, although if you understand what the film is trying to do then you’ll buy into it.
Whilst Locke could have turned into nothing more than a gimmick, it’s in fact a very accomplished piece of cinema. It’s not flashy or complicated, but the fact that’s kept simple is what works for it. As tense as any thriller and with a lead performance as impressive as most others you’ll see this year, Locke may be basic in premise but anything but in its execution.
- Superb central performance from Tom Hardy
- Gripping and tense
- Effective cinematography and score
- Hardy’s dodgy Welsh accent
- Some may find it unfulfilling