Locke review

Ivan Locke, as played by Tom Hardy, is the only character seen on screen in Steven Knight‘s latest feature. The film almost entirely takes place in Locke’s car as it hurtles down the motorway from Birmingham to London, and all of the dialogue is between Locke and a number of other, unseen characters, each of them heard through his in-car Bluetooth set-up.

This is, perhaps, an unusual proposition for a film and one that presents unique challenges. But Knight, Hardy and co. have stepped up and have crafted something that is, for the most part, gripping, and ultimately rather emotional.

Locke’s various phone calls concern his marriage, his relationship with another woman who is about to give birth, and his professional commitments to one of the largest concrete pours in Europe. Locke has made the decision to bail on his job as a construction foreman the night before he would oversee the laying of foundations for a giant skyscraper. Instead, he’s travelling to London to be with Bethan, portrayed in voice only by Olivia Colman.

None of the people that Locke speaks to seem to understand his actions but Ivan Locke is a practical and very pragmatic man. Logical almost to a fault, he is very keen to do the ‘right thing.’ This includes his dedication to ensuring the new skyscraper has firm and solid foundations, even while he won’t be on site to oversee the pour in person. There is a lot of detail in the concrete-related conversations, and you will leave the cinema with an unexpected understanding of the importance of a C6 concrete mix over a C5 mix.

The film actually benefits from the apparently constrictive means by which it has been made. The focus on Locke, this one man alone in a car, is laser-fine and the audience are allowed to unravel his character and understand his motivations with nothing to distract us.

Locke is committed to tearing down his life and building something new and totally free of compromise. This makes for a frustrating protagonist – and one who is at times his own antagonist – but Locke is a fascinating character because of it. As we watch him destroy the life he had been living right up until the very first moments of this film, we also grow to understand why.

Despite Locke being set in and around a single car, cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos has found a number of angles from which to shoot the ‘action’ and made great use of the many reflective surfaces and unusual light sources. Shot on the Red Epic and in 2.35:1, the film is an excellent example of what to do visually when presented with very little to work with, but there are times when the camerawork does become a little too stylised and obtrusive.

But this is a remarkable film, one that packs a number of twists and turns within its pared down plotting. Definitely not a piece of stunt filmmmaking, Locke is a well-rounded and rewarding experience.

Locke is out in UK cinemas on the 18th of April and in the US on the 25th of April. You can read our conversation with Steven Knight here on the site very soon.