Reviewed by Danny Sarnowski
In the newly-released to home video film Locke, Tom Hardy and writer/director Steven Knight work awfully hard. They set out, I think, to craft a unique, inventive, highly structured film grounded in the real-life drama of one flawed man. The movie follows this highly-determined man on an insanely stressful night as he drives along a busy highway surrounded by strangers. Though he is constantly taking and making cell calls to family and co-workers, he is utterly alone. To call this a one-man film is not an exaggeration. Unlike Phone Booth, which bored us to tears twelve years ago and cheated by having tons of action and actors circle our man-in-a-booth hostage, Locke sticks with it. Like Tom Hardy? Good. Because that is all you are getting for the duration. No other actor appears on screen. None.
I can imagine the pitch meeting now: "I have an idea for a movie." "Go on." "It's entirely shot in one car, on one road, on one night." "Ok..." "It follows one guy as he drives and talks on the phone." "Look, Steven..." "Wait, wait, the calls are sort of important. I mean, some are to his employer and those aren't that big a deal, and others are to a co-worker and those mostly feel like filler..." "Steven, you're great, but..." "Wait, the guy is Tom Hardy. Did I mention that? And the entire film will be done shooting in 8 days." "Oh, in that case, let's knock it out next week. Does that work for you?"
The film feels small and intimate. There is a high level of film making talent on display as this really is one dude in a car for 90 minutes. The different angles, use of traffic or b-roll footage, and music combine with Hardy's valiant acting to keep us engaged for the duration. Points to Knight for using all the technical tricks up his sleeve to keep the movie pulsing forward.
The script, however, is a let down. Locke uses his commute to make calls and admissions to various players in his life. He also works to solve some logistical challenges at his construction work site since he will be playing hooky the following day just as an "historic" pour of concrete is to take place. Man, to hear Hardy talk about concrete is just spooky. It is sacred to this guy. He takes it all very seriously and is sort of aghast at the thought of anyone else not living and dying by "his concrete" for "his building."
Ultimately, there are ways that Knight could have tweaked this script to keep it interesting or to create more drama and interest. In the end, it feels like you are stuck in the car with a pretty gruff guy working down his call log on a road trip. If you have ever ridden in a car with your boss or someone on the phone and you just need to sit quietly, you have experienced this. The movie doesn't offer any new insights for you. Why they felt the need to keep things so mundane is a mystery to me. With the "locked room" premise and engaging actors (Hardy and the quite-good voice cast on the phone), there should be more here.
- Hardy's acting. He is intense throughout and really shows us the stress he's under
- The voice cast on the phone all do a good job with limited material
- The drama. There is just too little here to warrant 90 minutes of your life
- As an interesting exercise in filmmaking: C-
- As a dramatic film: D-