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Locke_QUAD_Art 1 pack.indd

Released: 18th April 2014

Directed By: Steven Knight

Starring: Tom Hardy

Certificate: 15

Reviewed By: Rohan Morbey

Ivan Locke gets in his BMW X5 one evening in Birmingham and he sets off on a journey to London. Over the course of the 90 minutes he expects to be in his car, he knows he has to make some phone calls and these phone calls will change his life forever. Locke knows this, he is prepared for it, and in this new film from Steven Knight the events unfold very nearly in real time in the confides of only Locke’s car with only actor Tom Hardy on screen for the duration of the 90 minutes, making it one of the most compelling, engrossing and (crucially) realistic experiences I have seen for quite some time.

In reviewing Locke I think it helps to clarify what it is not, should the film’s promotional materials set expectations which may go unfulfilled. It is not ‘Phone Booth in a car’ nor is it a race-against-time thriller where every second counts to reach a destination before someone dies; Ivan Locke is not a reluctant hero nor does he turn into an expert high-speed racer in the final act. He is just a man like anyone else and like anyone else he makes mistakes but what drives this film is Locke’s personal mission to do what he believes is the right thing.

Watching the film I asked myself if I would have done the same thing if I found myself in Locke’s unenviable position, and the answer is that I really don’t know. What I do know is the screenplay is a masterclass in how to create, build, and sustain an engrossing scenario for the audience without ever sacrificing believability or asking us to ‘just go with it’. Every plot development is organic, stemming from Locke’s decision to make this journey but soon enough through the course of the journey and many phone calls the lives of several people are changed forever and only Locke is to blame. Part of what makes the film so compelling is how Locke never shifts the blame nor asks for forgiveness, he is accepting his fate from the moment he gets in the car despite the lies he could have told to maintain his current lifestyle. I don’t recall a character who is given seldom few likable qualities in a film yet is neither a ‘bad guy’ nor sympathetic; he is just Ivan Locke and this is the decision he has taken based on the actions he has made. He doesn’t want your forgiveness.

Despite the unique (at least it is to me) premise, the film would be nothing if it were not for both a powerhouse, one-man tour de force performance by Tom Hardy and the ability of director Steven Knight to ensure his film is consistently interesting to look at, which is no mean feat considering the options, other than Tom Hardy’s face, are the interior of a BMW X5, the motorways of the UK, and streetlights. You wouldn’t imagine this could make for both a compelling and visually interesting experience but Knight has made a film which delivers in both areas; the lights on the motorway take on a hypnotic effect, blending into one another and floating across the windscreen and Hardy’s face like his only companion on this lonely journey, whereas the display of the car’s hands free phone system soon makes it own tension once the familiar names pop up and we know what situation Locke must now confront. My favourite scene is when Locke first speaks to his wife and how Knight places Hardy’s face to the far left of the screen leaving three-quarters of the screen in darkness, forcing his character into a literal and proverbial corner and making him look, for that moment, detached from everything else in the world.

I love films which give me a new experience, introduce me to a different kind of leading character with a strange moral code, and take me on a journey on which I don’t know how it will end or even how I want it to end. Locke is minimalist, art house cinema at its best and it’s exactly what I look forward to from today’s exciting new film makers. I can barely fault it.

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