^ driving himself driven : Tom Hardy as Locke
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A man driving around in his car might not make for much of a movie, not unless he’s got a phalanx of baddies armed with uzis blasting away on his ass. That’s not the case in “Locke,” and thankfully so. What “Locke” has going for it is high stakes and Tom Hardy, the actor who has done everything from the violently outlandish “Bronson” to “Tinker Tailor, Soldier Spy” and even played a malevolent cage fighter in “Warrior,” not to mention those small films he did with Christopher Nolan : “Inception” and his indelible turn as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” Hardy’s range and versatility has him on his way to becoming the bonafide A list name from the UK that Jude Law never quite got to. If there was any question, “Locke” cinches it.
The premise is quite simple : a man gets in his car and drives for nearly ninety minutes in crisis management mode. Hardy’s Ivan Locke is a high performing construction foreman building the biggest modern day skyscraper in the London area, into whose BMW bluetooth system panicked calls from a woman, in a hospital and needing his reassurance, keep pouring. He also uses this system, as platform for a calm control over things out of his reach — and as the driving plot device for the film, to let his most loyal know, by direct report, that that he won’t be there tomorrow at 5AM when hundreds of cement trucks will roll in to pour the building’s foundation. This sets off a management shit storm, but Locke, ever calm and confident. diffuses each mini tempest with reason, explanation and solution. What’s not so easy are the calls from his wife, confused as to why he is driving through the night and not home watching the big soccer game with the boys.
The reason Locke is ostensibly ducking out on matters is a big MacGuffin. To say any more would be to cheat the film, but I can tell you this, I never knew that a pour of cement was so complicated, nor had I ever seen a builder so intimately involved in the process. What’s also amazing is the gorgeous, simple, stark cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos. The streak of lights and the illumination and enveloping blackness of night are breathtaking and as much a player in Locke’s lonely emotional journey as is his bluetooth. And not enough can be said of Hardy, pinned behind the wheel the whole time with the camera close in on his face as he talks through some sticky situations, it’s a tour de force performance that you see more on stage than on the scree, and his use of nuance and inflection nails simple emotional ripples, especially when anger masks behind his soothing words.
Director Steven Knight has mainly been a writer to date, with “Easter Promises” and “Dirty Pretty Things” to his credit, but as a man who puts pen to paper to plumb a soul, he gets this character study right both on pad and behind the lens. Shooting off into the unknown to atone is a brave choice not many would make. Locke risks a lot; Hardy and Knight may have risked more. The riches of their gamble shimmer in the cold dark night heading into London, guided by a chill electronic voice of one of Siri’s sisters. This subtle commentary on technology and being wired in is a daft mirror. Not all of “Locke” rings through, but that which rings is very real and leaves much to reflect upon.
— Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies