The premise of “Locke” is so simple that it does not sound like a good movie when you read its synopsis. Here is a man who has just made a big important decision to change his life forever and is determined to stick to his choice no matter what will happen in the end, and the movie accordingly sticks to his point of view while observing his night drive coupled with a big personal crisis from the beginning to the end
This does not sound very entertaining indeed, but, fueled by its sole physical performance and supported by its smooth, efficient screenplay, the movie works as a gripping character study. While watching its ordinary hero driving or talking with others through his car phone, we get to know more about him, and then we come to understand more what drives him into a decision which will topple his life one way or another.
As Ivan Locke(Tom Hary) leaves his workplace in Birmingham and then drives his car to London during one late evening, we get several pieces of basic information about his life. He has worked as a foreman at some big construction site, and we hear that tomorrow is especially an important day for his company. The massive concrete pour for the base of a high-rise building is scheduled to be done tomorrow, and everyone is counting on Locke, who has diligently been preparing and supervising this crucial process as the foreman.
But now he cannot complete his work, for someone needs him right now and he believes he must do the right thing. He calls his family that he cannot go to their home and spend their evening with a big soccer match on TV. He notifies to his direct boss that he will not be at the construction site in the next morning, and then he instructs one of his guys to handle the preparation for the upcoming concrete pour instead of him.
He also gets the calls from a hospital in London, and we come to learn bit by bit about the relationship between him and a woman he met several months ago. She got pregnant due to their accidental one-night-stand, and now she is about to give a birth to her baby while no one is around her to support or comfort her. Locke loves his wife and family, and he does not seem to be in love with this woman he barely knows, but he cares about the baby to be born because of his own personal reason. He could stay away from this trouble if he wanted, but he does not want that at all, and his resolution becomes stronger even when he is going through what will possibly be the most difficult moment of his life.
As getting closer to London minute by minute, he keeps getting pressured and cornered by others. He finally confesses to his wife about his infidelity and its consequence, and she naturally feels angry and confused about what her husband did as well as what he is doing right now. His sons begin to sense something wrong is going on, and one of them asks him about that at one point. Locke’s boss is understandably flabbergasted by his sudden message, and the same thing can be said about a young employee, who suddenly finds himself in charge of several important tasks after he receives a call from Locke around the end of his worktime.
The screenplay by the director Steven Knight, who wrote “Dirty Pretty Things”(2002) and “Eastern Promises”(2007), steadily rolls Locke’s situation on its straight course while effectively shifting its gear between different modes, and it always holds our attention through good dialogues which carefully flesh out not only its hero but also its supporting characters who only appear as the voices on the other end of the line. As listening to the conversations between Locke and other characters, we gradually sense that his life is virtually crumbling down around him because of his choice, and the feeling of isolation becomes more palpable as he continues his lonely drive through the bleak nocturnal landscape of motorways.
It goes without saying that the movie depends a lot on its lead actor’s performance, and Tom Hardy, who has always been an interesting actor to watch since his breakout performance in “Bronson”(2008), gives us a dynamic portrayal of a conflicted decent man who is willing to pay the price for doing what he believes is right. While he is sitting on the driver seat throughout most of the running time, Hardy is captivating to watch even when he does not say anything, and he is especially good when his character desperately juggles several things at once. Locke tries to reduce the consequences of his action as much as he can, but his situation becomes a lot more troublesome than expected, and there is a short but grueling moment when he must suppress his increasing frustration for getting things done as he promised.
While the movie is essentially Hardy’s one-man show, it should be mentioned that the other actors including Olivia Coleman, Ruth Wilson, Ben Daniels, Bill Milner, Tom Holland, and Andrew Scott did a believable job of interacting with Hardy on the screen as the voices on the other end of the line. Each of them brings different moods to their respective scenes, and Andrew Scott is particularly good as a young employee who happens to go through one hell of night just like Locke.
I watched “Locke” not long after enduring “Transformers: Age of Extinction”(2014), and “Locke” entertained me far more than that dreadful soulless product which is almost twice as long as the former. While I did not care much about those big, bloated CGI actions, I cared a lot about Locke’s situation, and I even found myself worrying along with him whenever his phone rang. It is quite apparent from the beginning that he will pay a big price for his choice, but at least he knows where he is driving to – and he is ready for that.