Tom Hardy is Ivan Locke, a family man who has worked hard in construction and is dedicated to his job. But he has made a mistake and as we follow him on a drive to London, we learn how that one mistake will change his life forever.
Visually, this is a one man show. Presented to us in real time and in the singular location of a car, this is minimalist cinema at its best. Our protagonist (Hardy) is a decent man who receives a phone call and immediately must travel to London on the eve of the most important concrete pour in his career, which he was supposed to be supervising. As his work colleagues panic, his calm, lilting Welsh voice is reassuring and he claims he just wants to do the right thing.
Throughout the 85 minute duration all we see are predominantly mid-shots of the bearded Locke in his car, interspersed with point of view shots, overhead traffic shots, reflections and change of focus to keep the film stimulating. However, the narrative device in the film is the humble telephone, opening up access to other characters who we only ever hear the voices of; work colleagues, wife, sons, a council employee and the mysterious woman in London, Bethan (Olivia Coleman). These phone conversations allow us to gradually understand the circumstances and truly get to know Locke, as well as some of the other characters.
The script is incredibly well-written, developing an absorbing situation in a humanistic manner. Locke is a fascinating character who we know is a good person but listening to what information he chooses to give people over the phone and how he approaches things is very interesting and depicts human nature in an extremely realistic way. But of course it is the fantastic Hardy who really keeps this film alive, showing us a far more ordinary human being than we are perhaps used to seeing him portray, he proves his calibre as an actor with a convincing Welsh accent (at times reminiscent of Richard Burton) and a gentleness that juxtaposes with his obvious physical strength due to his job. He brings just enough charisma to the character but never too much where it would feel over the top and unrealistic and detract from the story.
Locke is a great character study and it is refreshing to see something completely different but it does have its flaws. Unbelievably, Locke never has problems with his phone signal, a fact we could probably overlook but it is the clichéd angry outbursts where he talks to his dad that feel completely unnecessary and become tedious, ruining a beautiful film.
It is a clever move to cast someone like Hardy as he will no doubt attract quite a large audience, but whether this simple single location journey will satisfy audiences is questionable. Olivia Coleman is fantastic as the vulnerable Bethan, her voice depicting so many emotions and Andrew Scott as colleague Donal is particularly impressive and adds some much needed humour to the film. Surprisingly the construction elements of the story are actually the most interesting with concrete never being so exciting in a film.
The film is very cleverly structured having a number of situations happening all at once giving it a sense of pace and, in places, thriller qualities. Hardy is very impressive and successfully achieves tenderness and strength at the same time. Steven Knight proves his worth as both a writer and a director but it would have been nice if he had kept things even simpler and avoided the rants, which bring nothing extra to the character.
Overall, a tender portrait of a man just trying to do the right thing and seen from only his perspective, a gripping odyssey.
Director: Steven Knight
Writer: Steven Knight
Stars: Tom Hardy, Olivia Coleman, Ruth Wilson
Runtime: 85 mins
Country: USA, UK