In an age where attention spans are growing shorter and short by the minute, the fact that Locke even exists feels like a feat in and of itself. While Locke is not the first film to utilize only one location to tell its story, asking the audience to buy into the concept is always a risky proposition. The story needs to be engaging enough to subdue the knee-jerk urge for viewers to check their social media status every five minutes.
Fortunately for director Steven Knight, Locke not only manages to reel us in, but actually keeps us hooked long after the film ends. The premise of the film is rather simple, however it is ultimately effective. Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a construction foreman known for being the best at his job due to his immaculate care for the details. A loving family man, everything seems to be going well for Ivan. That is until he receives a telephone call that changes everything.
On the eve of his company’s biggest job yet, in which the foundation of a new skyscraper is set to be laid, Ivan informs his company that he will not be able to oversee the project himself. Instead, to the bafflement of his co-workers and family, he hops in his car and begins driving. As the film unfolds Ivan’s destination, and the reasons for leaving, slowly become clearer. Soon Ivan is not only delegating his job responsibilities from the driver’s seat of his car, but also attempting to deal with the ramifications that the mysterious call will ultimately have on his family life.
Outside of an opening image of the construction site, Steven Knight keeps his camera squarely around, and within, Ivan’s car. Using shots of the road and Ivan’s Bluetooth device to occasionally break the audiences gaze from Ivan, Knight leverages the confined space to create a claustrophobic atmosphere as Ivan struggles to keep the walls of his life from closing in on him.
Considering that Tom Hardy is the only actor we see on screen, one would think that both the success and failure of the film would land primarily on his shoulders. This is true to a certain extent. Hardy is quite good playing a man who is desperately trying to maintain control of a life that has spiraled out of his hands long ago. Ivan’s need to try and reestablish a sense of power, even if it is only to prove that history does not always repeat itself, is a futile but captivating endeavor. However, the real glue that keeps Locke tightly bound together is actually the exceptional work of the supporting cast.
Although the likes of Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman, Ben Daniels and Andrew Scott never grace the screen, their stellar voice acting work is integral to the film’s success. Creating vivid images of their characters in our minds, the supporting cast not only pushes the story forward in an interesting fashion, but they also make us eager to see how their individual characters will unfold. Andrew Scott, as the hapless Donal whom inadvertently gets saddled with taking over Ivan’s work last minute, is the scene stealer of the voice acting group.
Thanks in part to Tom Hardy’s performance, and the strong supporting work of the voice actors, Locke manages to feel like much more than a simple experiment. It is a fully realized film that features interesting characters and a surprisingly tight script. Steven Knight shows with Locke that it does not matter whether or not a film is shot in one or multiple locations. One does not need many special effects or last minute plot twists. All that is really needed to secure the attention and the imagination of the audience is a captivating story and solid performances. Two things Locke has in spades.