Synopsis: Ivan Locke (Hardy) has worked diligently to craft the life he has envisioned, dedicating himself to the job that he loves and the family he adores. 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. All taking place over the course of one absolutely riveting car ride, Locke is an exploration of how one decision can lead to the complete collapse of a life.
Release Date: May 9, 2014 MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre(s): Drama, Action
It takes a special kind of actor to carry a film completely on his or her own. Some have what it takes, and some do not – Sandra Bullock pulled it off in Gravity, but Robert Redford in All is Lost, not so much. Writer/director Steven Knight (Eastern Promises) gives Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) a shot at it in his contained thriller Locke.
Locke stars Hardy as Ivan Locke, a successful construction foreman who, after work one night, hops into his BMW, cancels all of his appointments, and starts to drive from Birmingham to London. Over the course of the drive, Locke makes and takes several phone calls on his cell phone which lay out the reasoning behind his journey. Locke switches between talking to his wife and children in Birmingham and his pregnant mistress in London, coming clean and trying to explain his obvious predicament to all of them. In addition, Locke juggles calls from various work contacts in order to orchestrate a big project that is beginning the next day. Between his family, friends, and colleagues, Locke has enough to deal with…and then his mind starts to play tricks on him as well.
All of Locke‘s story that is shown to the audience takes place inside the car; everything else, including what’s happening on the other end of the phone, is left up to the viewer’s imagination. The conversations and events of Steven Knight’s script unfold in real time, leaving very little arc to either the story or the characters. This does not hurt the film in the slightest, because Locke is not a typical narrative. There may not be a whole lot of action in the film, but Ivan Locke’s drive is eventful nonetheless, and the interweaving plotlines are interesting enough to make up for the lack of scenery. What Locke boils down to is the audience being given a voyeuristic peek at a man whose life is spiraling out of control, one phone call at a time. And, much like a car wreck, it’s tough to look away.
Due to scheduling conflicts, Knight was only able to secure the services of Tom Hardy for two weeks. Because of this truncated time frame, he took a rather unconventional approach to shooting Locke. After rehearsing for one week, Knight outfitted a car with remote cameras and shot for the entire next week, basically running through the entire film every night. Hardy would be in the car, Knight and his crew in a tracking truck, and the rest of the actors would be stationed in a nearby hotel room. Knight could keep in communication with his actors if and when he needed to be, but the picture was essentially shot live from multiple cameras over six nights, giving Knight and his editor, Justine Wright (The Last King of Scotland, The Iron Lady), plenty of footage with which to craft the story. The resulting film is a very live and authentic feeling picture, with the audience feeling like a fly inside Locke’s car, eavesdropping on his conversations.
Despite the entire film being set inside a BMW, there are no car chases or crashes in Locke. It is exactly as it is advertised, an 85 minute car ride with Ivan Locke talking on the phone the entire time. Still, it’s a captivating watch; there is enough drama in the conversations to intrigue the viewer, while the editing and camera work help to keep things interesting during the down time. Overall, it’s a very well made film, even though it’s mostly talk. It’s a perfect example of how modest and discreet filmmaking can still tell an effective story.
With minimalistic films, the pressure is put squarely on the shoulders of the actors, and Tom Hardy has a field day with Locke. As the only performer whose face is ever shown on camera, Hardy is tasked with the challenge of keeping the audience engaged single-handedly. He is done no favors with the wordy script, but Hardy manages to communicate effortlessly with the audience, conveying his character’s frustration, anger, grief, and confusion very well. Hardy is pretty much confined to using his voice and facial expressions, but they prove to be all he needs. Ivan Locke is a flawed character, but Hardy makes him likeable and honorable enough for the audience to root for him; it’s his movie, and everyone is on his side.
Tom Hardy’s Ivan Locke is the only character on screen, so the others must all be imagined and pictured by the viewer solely based on the sounds of their voices. The other performers are essentially voice actors, but they do what they are called upon to do well; the viewer fully grasps the anger of Locke’s wife, Katrina (Ruth Wilson from Saving Mr. Banks), as well as the desperation of his mistress, Bethan (Olivia Colman from The Iron Lady). Similarly, the audience senses the frustration of Locke’s boss, Gareth (Jack the Giant Slayer‘s Ben Daniels), and the impending panic of his coworker, Donal (Andrew Scott from “Sherlock”). Just because they aren’t seen, doesn’t mean the supporting cast members aren’t important; without them, Locke is just talking to himself.
Locke is meticulously and expertly shot by cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos (Thor). The film seems to break each and every convention of basic filmmaking, moving the camera around dizzyingly, but the containment of the car gives it a sense of order; the shots are not disorienting, since the viewer knows the layout of the car, but it is disquieting, keeping the audience on its toes. The lulls in conversation are filled with interesting camera tricks and techniques, things like the use of reflections off of mirrors or windows, or the racking of focus from Locke’s face to another important prop in the car. There are no happy accidents in Locke; everything is shown for a reason, and Zambarloukos keeps coming up with unique and creative ways to bring it all into focus and frame. It’s amazing what a skilled director and cinematographer team like Steven Knight and Haris Zambarloukos can do with a few cameras, a car, and the darkness of night.
Because Locke takes place under the darkness of night and in one location, Locke’s car, the sound design is an integral part of the storytelling, and sound editor Ian Wilson (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) understands that fact. The voices of the supporting cast are pumped in through Locke’s phone, and mixed and matched seamlessly into the cross-cut storylines. To spice things up in an effort to manufacture a little bit of tension, Wilson throws in sirens, car horns, revving engines – things that would be heard during a car trip, but would normally go unnoticed. The background noise helps with the realism, but also adds to the drama, unsettling and discomforting the viewer. Wilson also adds the usually taken-for-granted noises from inside the car, sounds like the ringing of Locke’s phone, the dinging of his dashboard alerts, even the automated woman’s voice that lets him know that he has another call. All of these sounds come together to turn the seemingly lonely car ride into a carnival-like experience. It’s Locke’s ride, but the viewer is not allowed to sleep peacefully.
Cast and Crew
- Director(s): Steven Knight
- Screenwriter(s): Steven Knight
- Cast: Tom Hardy (Ivan Locke)Olivia Colman (voice of Bethan)Ruth Wilson (voice of Katrina) Andrew Scott (voice of Gareth)Tom Holland (voice of Eddie)
- Editor(s): Justine Wright
- Cinematographer: Haris Zambarloukos
- Production Designer(s):
- Costume Designer:
- Casting Director(s):
- Music Score: Dickon Hinchliffe
- Music Performed By:
- Country Of Origin: USA