Friday, 10 April 2015

Locke (2014)

Locke is a film set entirely in a car that largely features a man talking about cement.

And that's good is it?

Yes. Yes it is! Primarily because I think this is one of the best performances I've seen from Tom Hardy - why BAFTA ignored him for this I will never know.

Ivan Locke is Mr Reliable. A softly spoken family man and methodical construction professional, he is clearly meticulous and, as his surname perhaps suggests, all about control.

Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders, Hummingbird, Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things) depicts Locke leaving a Birmingham building site in his BMW, and remains in said car for the rest of the film, driving south on the motorway, making and receiving phone calls. His wife (voiced by Ruth Wilson) and two sons are expecting him home for the match, but Locke informs them he won't be back in time. He won't be at work tomorrow either, despite it being the biggest day of his career; where he's due to supervise a major concrete pour – the biggest civilian pour in Europe in fact - on a job which £11m is riding.

Why has the safe pair of hands suddenly become so unreliable? Because Locke had a one night stand with a lonely 40 something spinster called Bethan (the voice of Olivia Colman) and she's about to give birth, prematurely, to their child. Determined to do the right thing, he is driving to London to be by her side and to ensure the child knows who is dad is because he doesn't want to be an errant parent like his own father was to him.

This is a brilliantly subtle movie about a man's whole personality and character, his desire to do the right thing by everyone and to keep everything under control when he's slowly irrevocably set about its destruction, is laid out on display and illuminated by passing car headlights and the orange motorway glare.  Despite its claustrophobic, static setting, Knight manages to convey so much of Locke's world – in both his personal and professional life - through a series of phonecalls with the likes of Wilson, Colman and, as his jittery and somewhat dumb deputy, Andrew Scott, that it's easy for us to picture and imagine. And Knight is clearly determined to keep the visual interesting for us too, shooting Hardy from several angles as he talks on the phone or as his mind constantly races between the pregnant pauses in the conversation. Tension is neatly ramped up too - you'll never be able to hear the previously ordinary 'call waiting' in the same way again as it continuously interrupts, threatening Locke with a further setback down the line.

I think this is one of the best, if not the best, performance from Hardy because it affords him the opportunity to play someone more or less normal, a low key everyman with all the little tics and traits that allows. Relishing the opportunity to play subtle, rather than go for the big grand swagger of the more threatening or macho roles he is known for, each small gesture is a joy and speaks volumes. Likewise his adoption of a lyrical, careful and pronounced Welsh accent is a masterstroke and reminded me of that great Welsh actor Mark Lewis Jones.

Anyone who thinks a film set completely in a car cannot be interesting will be forced to think again on watching Locke. Recommended.

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