In a series of phone calls whilst on a motorway journey a man’s life falls apart

USA/UK 2013

Director: Steven Knight

Writer: Steven Knight

Runtime: 85 minutes

There must be something in the air. These last few months have given us several films (Gravity, All is Lost, Tracks) in which  a lone or nearly-alone protagonist has to negotiate a difficult situation. For the filmmaker, too, such movies – lacking the usual levels of human interaction – also create a difficult situation, namely the challenge of creating the tension that drives the story along. In Locke, Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises) delivers us another lone protagonist in the figure of Welshman Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), a building site manager who we first meet clocking off and heading down the motorway towards London. For the rest of the film we stay with Locke on his journey through the night, during the course of which a series of hands-free mobile phone calls chart the unravelling of his life. The only other human figures we ever see are a few other men leaving the site at the start of the film and some motorway maintenance workers.

A night-time drive along a motorway may not sound like a promising idea for a movie, but the conversations that transpire during Ivan Locke’s journey are a masterclass in the creation of dramatic tension. Initially, Locke seems like a man in control, deftly scrolling between the contacts on his phone list and making arrangements. But it quickly becomes apparent that something is not right. Locke tells Donal (Andrew Scott), a deputy at the building site, that he will not be turning up for work tomorrow, a crucially important day when huge quantities of concrete are being delivered to lay the foundations for a new tall building. The reason for Locke’s absence is an unenviable personal drama, and Locke finds himself juggling phone calls with colleagues and family, every one of whom is having a drama of their own as the result of Locke’s behaviour.

Through all the turmoil Locke is a man trying to do the right thing by everybody, although sometimes you feel that he is possibly slightly delusional about his ability to put everything right. Locke is trying to be a responsible person, unlike the dead father whom – when not on the phone – he curses and berates. Whenever Locke launches into one of these tirades he stares into the rear view mirror, a symbolic representation of the past where perhaps he expects to see his father’s shade. Outside Locke’s vehicle, headlights and neon lights flash by. Occasionally, police cars, sirens wailing, remind us that there are other dramas going on beyond the one happening before us.

Tom Hardy’s performance as Ivan Locke is quite dazzling. The gentle lilting Welsh accent with which he speaks perfectly suits the outward display of calm with which he meets the various challenges facing him, but it also makes it seem all the more disturbing when emotions burst through to the surface. One suspects that Locke could work as a radio play, as ultimately it is a triumph of writing and performance.

Rating: 10/10

  1. CMrok93 says:

    Hardy makes this movie so great and interesting. Just by doing the most simple with a look in his eye. Good review.


  2. Annie Oakley says:

    I have to admit that this one lost me, it was ok for a while but i got bored 3/4 way through.


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