Writer-director Steven Knight clearly enjoys a good challenge. Locke, a mesmerizing drama of uncommon intensity, takes place over the course of one evening, as married construction foreman Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) makes the long drive from Birmingham to London in order to be with his one-time mistress (voiced by Olivia Colman) as she gives birth to his child. Ivan is the only visible character, and Locke‘s sole setpiece is his car, a silent crucible of transformation for Ivan as he makes a series of calls that bring his life crashing down around him.
A self-proclaimed “good man,” Ivan feels that during the drive he must break the news of his affair, and the child, to his wife (voiced by Ruth Wilson), so as not to lie to her about where he’s going. Understandably, she doesn’t take it well. Ivan’s sudden road trip also works to sabotage the massive construction project he’d been heading up, a large construction pour that could easily cost his company millions if something goes awry (neither his boss, voiced by Ben Daniels, nor his put-upon colleague, voiced by Andrew Scott, can understand Ivan’s decision to be at his mistress’s side rather than on site). “I’m not turning back,” he tells himself and anyone on the other end of the line. To Ivan, this resolution means everything.
Knight directs the film as if tightening a vice, keeping audiences trapped inside the car and, subsequently, inside Ivan’s sly but scattered mind. Meanwhile, his clever script finds organic ways to deepen Ivan’s moral dilemma without ever stretching the story’s credibility or its punchy central tenets.
It’s an intense, enthralling experience, heightened on Hardy’s hypnotic lead performance. In the actor’s capable hands, Ivan is alternately charming and repulsive, admirable and despicable, seductive and monstrous – but every step of the way, he’s consistently fascinating to watch. You may recognize the actor as the cool-as-cucumber Eames from Inception, or as villainous Bane from The Dark Knight Rises, but I can guarantee that you have never seen the actor summon the barely-contained fury or choked emotion that he does here. It’s a transformative performance, one that you don’t want to look away from for even a second.
Ivan changes over the course of the movie. At first, the way in which the cracks appear at his foundation are hard to see, but as an avalanche of personal disaster descends upon him, Ivan’s faults become increasingly exposed, and Hardy strips away his externally calm and collected layers accordingly, revealing a flawed man willing to fight tooth-and-nail to come out on top of any situation.
Knight simultaneously adjusts his direction, cutting faster and harder, pushing audiences even as his script pushes Ivan past the brink. The harmony between the director and his star is a thing of real beauty. So’s Locke. It’s a daring experiment, a dazzling achievement, and a drive unquestionably worth taking.
The Blu-Ray for Locke offers a strong 1080p transfer that, while never being particularly flashy, is true to Knight’s every intention. The film is bathed in a sickly yellow, apparently from the streetlights that illuminate Ivan’s grave features at every turn, and Locke doesn’t deviate from that color palette apart from when it occasionally turns the camera outwards to capture the appearance of the highway as a whole. Still, detail on Ivan’s features and clothing is sharp throughout, and the black levels are particularly impressive, lending the car around Ivan a sinister, brooding vibe.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Audio Track, while never particularly vibrant, is also very solid, immersing viewers in the sounds of traffic passing and quietly implementing Dickon Hinchliffe’s spellbinding score (Hinchcliffe is a former member of the British band Tindersticks). Hardy’s dialogue sounds appropriately crisp, and though the voices on the other end of the phone are tinnier (as one would expect), nothing ever interferes with the clarity of what they’re saying.
In terms of special features, Locke includes:
- Audio Commentary with Director Steven Knight
- Ordinary Unraveling: Making Locke (9:37)
Knight’s commentary track is interesting and even-handed, discussing most aspects of Locke and chatting about where the idea for the pic came from and what it was like both working with Hardy and creating a sense of claustrophobia in the vehicle. Sadly, “Ordinary Unraveling: Making Locke” is very short and doesn’t dig too far beneath the surface. Interviews are interesting but far too brief, and though the behind-the-scenes shots we see are cool, brevity is again an issue.
Though the special features are disappointing, Locke is anything but. It’s a powerhouse film which boasts Hardy’s finest performance to date. The simple premise is fully explored by Knight, who manages to craft a riveting exploration of modern masculinity and the nature of guilt out of a tiny setting and just one flesh-and-blood character. Expect Oscar buzz for Hardy to build throughout the fall – his tour-de-force performance turns Locke into one of the most enjoyable one-man-shows in recent memory.
Tom Hardy is electric in the title role, and the harmony that the actor achieves with writer/director Steven Knight elevates Locke from a simple gimmick into a simply brilliant exploration of the human psyche.