Movies offer a unique opportunity to display the struggles of characters or people in different yet familiar settings like a car. This look on the struggle in a familiar setting is the main focus of the 2013 film Locke. On the eve of the fallout from one mistake many months ago, construction foreman Ivan Locke drives to what he believes is what is right while having to deal with problems in his family and his workplace. This film being a character study and having only one character actually appearing on screen allows for an opportunity for a strong performance, which is given by Tom Hardy. Tom Hardy is the only actor in the film that appears onscreen since the rest of the characters talk to him on the car phone. Hardy is able to juggle a variety of emotions, expressions, and stories with equal skill. He conveys how Locke is trying to do the right and honorable thing but keeps making things worse despite his attempts. He is able to deliver the necessary exposition in an effective fashion. While his accent is sometimes off or his actions or words make him unlikable, he still is engaging as a character. The film delivers a message on the ramifications of a single mistake and the problems with trying to please everyone in a dissimilar fashion. This is accomplished though the interesting setting of a car on the highway. The message is also developed alongside the other characters and their stories despite only hearing their emotional voices through the car phone. The "voice acting" is effective at transmitting what each character is feeling. There are a few particularly effective scenes where Locke talks to his deadbeat father like he is in the backseat of the car despite the seat being empty. These scenes are the best of the film with an impressive combination of directing, editing, music, and the performance by Hardy. Unfortunately, concerning the rest of the film, the editing, directing and music is lacking. The camera shots and editing get incredibly repetitive with the pattern of wide shot, blurred light, closeup on Hardy, exterior of the car, a shot of the road, and a dissolve between the traffic and Hardy's face. With a few exceptions and despite some beautiful shots of the highway, this pattern is continued throughout most of the film. When the pattern is broken, it is for a technique such has a handheld camera shot which does not fit. In addition, the music, while sometimes fitting, feels generic or out of place at times. Also there is much symbolism in this film through how Hardy drives and the signs and cars he passes. While I am a fan of symbolism in film, this symbolism is extremely obvious and therefore distracting at times. Finally, the dialogue between Hardy and those he calls is engaging but can conflict with each other or become unclear at times. For instance, many of the characters Hardy talks to claim that he has changed, but the audience never sees him prior to this supposed change so we have no frame of reference in which to view this change. Locke is an interesting film that is still engaging despite its entire story being a guy on the phone while driving a car. There are some impressive elements in this film, particularly concerning the acting, but there are also some missed opportunities. I would recommend Locke to fans of Tom Hardy or solo character movies.
For any dramatic movie a precondition to appreciate it is to be willing to step into the shoes of, at least, the main character - and in this case these shoes are mighty uncomfortable. For me, it was even scary. But the value of the movie was precisely in the confrontation with that scare: how easy it is for my comfortable and happy life to completely fall apart - and how would I survive?
The great thing about this movie is that the human drama of Ivan Locke does not involve dramatic events. No war-time atrocities, no children dying, not even one criminal pointing a gun. That is what makes this picture of a life falling apart so scary.
Or is it indeed a 'life falling apart'? The ending isn't hopeless - not at all. At one point I found myself wondering how the scriptwriter could possibly provide a fitting end to this movie and dreading some unexpected turn of events, but instead the ending is absolutely great in its modesty and subtlety and realism. It is, therefore, even more scary as it keeps me thinking 'yes, this could happen to me'.
I've never felt closer to a protagonist as this, sitting with him for this real time journey as he rotates the diamond of his life and shows us every fractured facet of the damaged jewel, fractures which he refuses to see. This is a powerful movie about an optimist who is literally in his own little world ploughing ahead in a perfect state of pure denial as all those around him run around like panicking chickens. the real heroics, we finally realise, are not in any actions or even results, but in the steadfastness, faith and utter control that Locke drives himself to deliver. And all through the telephone. Locke is the best film I've seen for months, and the most original film I've seen for years. It's a HIGH NOON for our generation.