Ivan Locke has worked hard to craft a good life for himself. Tonight, that life will collapse around him. On the eve of the biggest challenge of his career, Ivan receives a phone call that sets in motion a series of events that will unravel his family, job, and soul.
Locke precariously drives down the road of crushing solitude. Concrete. A highly versatile construction material that harnesses strength and durability as aspects of its properties. Impact and fire resistant. A common element for brutalist architecture. And just like the eponymous construction foreman, all it takes is for one mistake. The most minuscule of errors, before an erected building collapses. Unable to withstand the misjudgement of its foundations. Locke, as he drives his tissue-littered BMW X5 from Birmingham to London, must confront unintentional accidents that have caused his mentality to inadvertently spiral out of control.
A one night stand with Colman as she gives birth to a miscalculated oversight. Consequently causing Locke to abruptly depart for the hospital, resulting in his job dismissal and a construction company spending millions more on a building that has yet to come to fruition. Confronting his own family, showcasing honesty in the most desperate of situations. An hour and a half drive (“as fast as the traffic will allow”). Thirty six phone calls. A life dissolving in the confinement’s of one location. He had everything. Security. Family. Shelter. Only for them to be removed by signalled communications in the luxury of his BMW.
Knight illustrates the power of simplicity. No flashy visualised distractions. No abrupt editing mechanics. No action. The thrills, tension and drama stem from a screenplay that has its extremities tested by consistently filming in real-time. Allowing the dialogue to be the only aspect at the forefront. We witness an individual deal with the stresses of life. Both professional and personal. Examining the moralities of a man who strives to differ from his irresponsible father. But his wife’s rebuttal is an opaque sentiment that challenges forgiveness. “The difference between never and once is the difference between good and bad”. An eternally resonant message that self-drives this car journey into the realms of virtuosity.
Knight’s purposeful choice of enhancing the claustrophobic environment complements the depiction of Locke’s world, as he knows it, swirling in on him. Reducing the boundaries of his breathing space. His stress and anxiety heightening with each phone call he receives. However, none of the above would’ve been as effective if it wasn’t for Hardy’s exceptionally tantalising performance. Far from a car crash, he manages to centralise the focus on him with the camera rarely moving away from his bloodshot eyes or fatigued face. His desperation and intrusive responses illustrates loneliness on a more empathetic wavelength.
Despite the act of adultery, you never view Locke as an antagonistic entity. He does his best to find “the next practical step” whilst retaining the thoughts of the recipients in his own head. It’s relatable, personally, on a level that cancels out the background noise. And that, is a powerful dramatic endeavour.
There are a few bumps on the motorway though. The various scenes where Locke talks to himself, as if he’s talking to his father, were somewhat cumbersome techniques in order to convey his opposing stance to his father that still haunts him. It’s not particularly subtle, and contrasts heavily with the dramatic phone calls. A desperate attempt to convey abandonment, which would’ve been alleviated by a simple phone chat instead. It’s not shot in one take, and so editor Wright embeds scenes of traffic and the bright luminescence of roads to segregate the narrative flow. These occur too frequently and conceives an occasional irregular pace. And the maternity nurse wasn’t particularly helpful by constantly spluttering “she’s afraid” whilst Locke clearly stated he was on his way. Give the man a break!
Despite these bumps, Locke is a smooth drive with dramatic heft and cinematic experimentalism. An irony of a construction worker having his life demolished in minutes. Testing an individual’s moralities through a variety of stress-inducing situations, culminating into an illustration on solidarity. Hardy confidently drives the plot to its desired destination, “speed limits” included.
IM Global, Shoebox Films by Steven Knight.
Stars: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott.
Keywords: london, england england husband wife relationship pregnancy cheating husband construction site one night road movie driving one location project manager driving at night car phone
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