A Film Review by Akash Singh
NOTE: SPOILERS OCCUR!!!!!!!
Tom Hardy drives a car down an English freeway for about eighty minutes. That premise sounds absolutely ridiculous, as if this is going to be a really long commercial for a new English car brand. Yet as bonkers as it sounds, there’s something terribly intriguing to the entire enterprise. What happens? Are there massive accidents on the road and Hardy has to swerve in between them like his upcoming role in Mad Max: Fury Road? Is it a high speed action chase against time? Locke really isn’t full of typical car action, but in many aspects it’s several races against time happening simultaneously, all strung together by the hands of a single man. It’s enough to drive anyone up the wall, but Hardy’s titular Locke does his damn best to hold himself together. Locke primarily is a vehicle for Hardy, who turns in his best performance to date and that’s saying something. He carries the entire film upon his shoulders and not for a single second does it feel like a burden.
There’s little plot structure to the film and in an incredibly rare instance, that doesn’t prove to be a detriment. This is the story of one man whose life essentially crumbles apart on one drive as he confronts the demons of his past, his present, and his future. Intelligently, Steven Knight’s script doesn’t unravel its answers all at once, rendering the rest of the film incomplete. Nor does it simply focus on Locke’s family, his infidelity, his past, or his work for a good chunk of time. The script smartly goes back and forth, each different phone call seemingly leading to a different catastrophe that is only expounded by another phone call from a completely different area of his life. Locke makes one truly care about Locke’s success in pilling off his business to the point where you’re actively rooting for him to succeed in his concrete pout. That’s right, the film makes concrete pours interesting.
What makes Locke click on a thematic level is how utterly mundane (not an insult) and germane it feels, certainly helped by its technical prowess. Filmed in real time with only one break in between, that reality gives a subtext of palpable tension to the entire enterprise. Locke’s internal struggle feels so powerful not just because his drive feels suitably authentic with all of the road rage that comes with it, but because he feels incredibly relatable. He’s not some mythical sort of being, or even someone who has an extraordinarily exciting job. He has what seems to be a relatively mundane day job, he has children, a loving wife, and his idea of a nice evening consists of sausages with German beer and a soccer match. It sounds normal, an evening any of us could think of having now or in the future – perhaps not as exactly as it is in the film, but that general aura of it feels true. That’s why it works.
The supporting cast has to rely solely on their voices and in a way that’s an even more difficult thing to pull off, acting while only imagining the other actor’s expressions. Certainly the best of the lot belongs to Ruth Wilson’s bereaved Katrina Locke, whose breakdown after the reveal of her husband’s infidelity gives the film much of its raw emotional power. You want to side with Locke, but you scan hardly hold a grudge against Katrina, whose legitimate anger and feeling of betrayal are portrayed so flawlessly. Olivia Coleman’s Beth, with whom Locke is having a child, never comes across as needy or greedy and that’s largely due to the writing and Coleman’s fierce portrayal of a woman who just wants someone to be there for her to share the journey of life with. Arguably the most emotionally resonant performance comes from a character that technically doesn’t even exist within the confines of the film – Locke’s deceased father. He had abandoned Locke as a child and that is why he has to go to the birth of his illegitimate child even though it was a one-night stand and he could easily write the entire event off. He doesn’t want another child to go through what he did and you feel the weight of that decision at every moment.
Tom Hardy is the beating heart and soul of the film, having to carry each and every single frame of the film. It’s simply extraordinary, his performance, how he responds and absorbs every little piece of information and allows his face to express every bit of it with absolute subtlety. The subtlety in all honesty is what truly carries the emotional stakes of the film, from the quiet changes in tones of voice, the quick eye movements, the expressions of despair. There’s no moment of overbearing bravado at work here and this simplicity allows for a much deeper complexity to rise from within it. By no means is the acting praise simply limited to Hardy’s performance (as noted above) that in all righteousness should garner him an Oscar nomination at least. Heck, I’d like to see significant awards love for this brilliant burst of ingenuity. It’s unequivocally deserving.
MPAA Rating: R
Directed by: Steven Knight
Produced by: Guy Heeley, Paul Webster
Starring: Tom Hardy
Music by: Dickon Hinchliffe
Cinematography: Haris Zambarloukos
Edited by: Justine Wright
Production company: Shoebox Films, IM Global
Running Time: 84 minutes
Release Dates: 2 September 2013 (Venice), 18 April 2014 (United Kingdom)
Image Courtesy: The Chicago Tribune