PLOT: Ivan Locke drives to the hospital on the night his one-night stand prematurely has his baby while attempting to explain his situation to family and coworkers.
REVIEW: No current actor that I can think of conveys "ticking time bomb" quite as well as Tom Hardy. He never looks quite at ease, always seems to be concentrating on holding himself back, lest he explode at whoever or whatever is taxing his intended serenity. (He didn't even look comfortable in the romantic comedy THIS MEANS WAR, but that may have been for different reasons entirely.) Hardy makes for an ideal anti-hero, since even at his brightest moments you're not entirely sure he's trustworthy, yet you see if his mind is set on something, you're sure as shit he'll get it accomplished.
Hardy's subdued intensity is well suited for the character of Ivan Locke, a man on a mission in Steven Knight's LOCKE. LOCKE is a one man show, focusing solely on Locke as he takes the most fateful drive of his life one dark night in England. We almost never leave his car and we never see the several people Locke speaks to on the phone. And while there is suspense present in the contained situation, this is a fairly straight-forward drama; no PHONE BOOTH or BURIED-type plot mechanics in play. Instead, we're witness to the aftermath of one man's critical, life-altering decision and the emotional battery he must endure once the consequences begin to pile up in his head. It's a fascinating film, one that has every right to be boring and redundant, yet stunningly never lags or fails to be engrossing.
When we meet him, it's clear Locke has a lot on his mind. Driving away from his job as the supervisor of a cement pouring company, Locke is not driving home but instead to a London hospital where a one-night stand is having his child. The drive is long, and he won't be in for work tomorrow, despite the fact that his company is about to embark on its biggest project ever, the construction of a 55-story tower bankrolled by a high-profile corporation in the U.S. It's probably that he won't be back home tomorrow, either, maybe not for a while. A noble father of two and, we presume, a good man, Locke has decided to embark on this mission to be by his "mistake's" side because of a responsibility he fervently feels. That this comes at the cost of his marriage and livelihood, he is willing to accept. And for 90 minutes, we begin to understand - or at least try to understand - why Locke is risking everything, destroying his happy existence, when he doesn't actually have to.
Knight impressively keeps us glued to Locke's progressively worsening series of phone calls to his wife and sons, to a co-worker who must fill in for him at the biggest job of his life, to his fuming boss, while the man attempts to explain himself - to them, to us, to himself. What's impressive about Hardy's performance - and Knight's script - is that Locke never quite goes over the edge. One might expect we'd be privy to a series of histrionic, showboat-y moments as we watch the unraveling of this man's life, but Knight and Hardy choose to keep Locke stubbornly reasonable; he refuses to crack, is measured and resolute. Only a handful of times do we see Locke's veneer break, and even then it's for a quick second or two, and there are times when we're just as irked by him as are the people he speaks to.
Knight obviously sees the ticking bomb aspect in Hardy, which is why he's so perfectly cast, and fans of his will find much to appreciate. The actor once again adopts an interesting accent - Welsh, in this case - and gives his character a peculiar verbal rhythm which is extremely amusing to the ear. But that's as far as it goes in terms of quirks: it's a performance of steady determination, as quiet as it is brimming with regret, dejection, and simmering anger.
It can't be said that LOCKE will please everybody; surely, it's no easy task to simply watch one lone actor carry the entire weight of a story's see-sawing emotional beats. But anyone willing to sit in the passenger seat for this unusual ride will be rewarded by a captivating actor in an equally captivating picture.