Dr. Donna Copeland’s
Films with one actor on screen for the entire duration seem to be gaining in popularity. In 2013, Gravity was a success while All is Lost was a failure. Most of the films with just one actor on screen exist within the thriller or action genre (Cast Away, Phone Booth), but Locke, as tense as some of the moments are, has a calming pace. The entire film takes place in an SUV as our lead actor Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) is driving to a hospital in London. The majority of the 90 minutes are spent on the phone to various people, as Hardy’s character explains his actions and predicament. Through all of this we get a very good sense of his character, as well as his background.
Ivan Locke (Hardy) leaves the construction site of what is to be the largest non-government building in Europe on the most important day of his company pouring the foundation concrete. Locke is also supposed to be heading home after work to spend the evening with his wife and two boys as they watch an important sports game. As soon as he gets in his vehicle, however, he begins his many phone calls to Bethan, a woman he met 9 months ago who is about to have his child. Locke must break the news to his family over the phone as he drives quickly toward the hospital. He continually explains to Bethan and the doctors at her side that he is the father, but not her partner.
The first thing I thought of as I watched and listened to Locke’s journey away from everything he loves, his work and family, toward a mistake that had returned to haunt him, is how this film could also work as a radio program. We never see the people he is on the phone with, but the script and Hardy’s performance gives us more than we need to create the images in our minds. While the audio and spoken dialogue are arguably the most important elements of the film, writer/director Steven Knight (Redemption) offers us really beautiful cinematography, and that’s saying a lot since most of the shots are inside the vehicle. The cinematography and editing in Locke go hand in hand, however. The score by Dickon Hinchliffe is another element, as in all the other single actor films, that makes it less of a one person show and more like an experience.
The script on which everything is built on is extremely clever with the order of the calls, which callers hang up, and which callers call back, etc. The viewer is more of a voyeur in this film, as we are privy to all these conversations, while the recipients on the other end do not get a full picture of the anxiety and stress Locke is facing as he drives. It’s a juggling act, an in motion office, as he tries to calm his family, be there for Bethan and guide his second hand man through the technicalities of his absence at the jobsite. However, the most impressive element out of everything I have mentioned is Hardy himself, who listens as much as he talks. Therefore, the performance is mostly in his eyes that are gleaming with pain and often streaming tears. It’s a triumph for him as an actor, but very likely not a film you would ever want to see twice.
Final Thought – Hardy gives another challenging and superb performance.
By: Dustin Chase
Steven Knight is an amazing writer; his Dirty Pretty Things has never left my mind since I saw it in 2003, and I was equally impressed with Eastern Promises (2007). Now, he has done it again with Locke, which he also directs, and takes a novel approach in filmmaking that speaks directly from our day and age. Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is simply driving in his car, but the drama of his life is swirling around him over his mobile phone. Who would have thought that an audience could remain engaged in a state of high tension simply by overhearing phone calls? But herein lies Knight’s genius. He is able to pull us right in to experience first hand the dilemmas Ivan is facing in all the fronts of his life that he holds most dear. And in an experience similar to listening to an audio book or someone telling us a story, the drama comes alive in our visualizations.
Hardy seems like a natural in this role of a caring, empathic, circumspect man who is able to use his left brain in giving detailed instructions to his stand-in at work, while at the same time offering words of comfort and reassurance to others. Ah, the voice! It’s perfect timbre brings encouragement and comfort all on its own. Better than anybody I know, he can say, “It’s going to be all right; you’re going to be fine”, and be utterly convincing. And he does all this while he has a nasty cold.
In another show of character, Hardy’s Locke mans up to take responsibility for a mistake he has made and attempt to bring honor back to the Locke name, which he feels has been sullied. He is very angry with someone, and in between the flare-ups of others and his orchestrations to make all things better, he rails mightily against another absent figure. And those episodes clarify for us why he is doing what he is doing and why he feels so strongly about it.
Be prepared for a tension-filled hour and a half, but you won’t want to take your eyes off Hardy.