Review: Locke (Sundance 2014)
REVIEW: LOCKE is the sophomore film from writer-director Steven Knight, whose HUMMINGBIRD (aka REDEMPTION- as it's known in North America) was a pretty interesting departure for star Jason Statham, and was distinguished by some pretty arresting visuals. Even if it wasn't an entirely successful movie it was an interesting one and marked Knight as a guy to watch. His follow-up, LOCKE, is a big step forward despite the fact that the entire thing takes place in one tiny location, being the titular character's BMW.
Usually, I'm not a fan of these closed environment films. Beyond the claustrophobia of such a film, it's really hard to keep something like that interesting, but Knight has found a way. My plot description probably makes this sound like a thriller, but it's not. This isn't a life an death struggle for LOCKE. Literally within the first five minutes it's revealed that Locke is skipping out on his job to be there for the birth of his child; the wrinkle being that it's the result of a one-night-stand, and his wife has no idea. Over the course of the eighty-five minute film, he has to handle the fragile mother-to-be, somehow arrange for an important concrete delivery that will make the multi-million dollar skyscraper he's constructing happen, and break the news about his affair to his wife.
The most important aspect of the film is that Locke is a guy you immediately sympathize with. He's deeply flawed, but noble in his efforts to not let anyone down, even if that's virtually impossible. The whole film- other than a few odd scenes where he rants at his dead father who he imagines sitting in the back seat of his beemer- is Locke on the phone. This is really a one-man-show, and Tom Hardy nails it.
There's been a lot of hype about Hardy lately, with several big movies (including MAD MAX: FURY ROAD) hinging on his success as a leading man. Based on LOCKE, their success seems like a good bet. Adopting a strange, deliberate manner of speaking that suggests a man desperately trying to keep himself (and everyone else in his life) calm, Hardy is an arresting presence. While Statham was good in HUMMINGBIRD, Hardy is absolutely superb.
Even still, LOCKE could have petered out after twenty minutes had Knight's script not been so consistently intriguing, and if the voices of the people Locke talks to not been so distinct and well-cast. Several renowned English performers play the people he interacts with over the phone and even if you never see their faces, their contribution is significant. Olivia Colman from TYRANOSAUR plays Hardy's unlikely one-night-stand, and Ruth Wilson from THE LONE RANGER is his wife. They're great, but special notice has to be paid to Andrew Scott- best known as Moriarty from SHERLOCK- who voices the salt-of-the-earth cement mixer Locke's absence sends into a panic. He gives the film its few moments of levity.Like HUMMINGBIRD, LOCKE is also quite striking visually. While LOCKE doesn't have Chris Menges as the DP, Haris Zambarloukos- who's Kenneth Branagh's usual shooter (he shot THOR and JACK RYAN: SHADOW RECRUIT) makes for a more than able substitute. For a film that's all about a guy driving on the M6 (with very little traffic as he often points out), LOCKE looks beautiful, with great nighttime visuals. While the setting is static, the film never looks flat and is always interesting visually. While the idea of a whole film just featuring Tom Hardy driving from point A to point B might not sound like everyone's cup of tea, in the hands of Steven Knight and star Hardy, the film is often moving, and always compelling. It's definitely one to look out for.