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“Locke”
Directed by Steven Knight
Starring Tom Hardy
United Kingdom
85 Minutes

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True to its name, Locke slams us in a car with Tom Hardy for 85 mins as he’s forced to steer his life in new directions that ultimately orchestrates the end of his small but satisfying world.

Zipping along sparsely populated English highways in a sporty beamer, Ivan Locke (Hardy) undertakes an abrupt quest – a writ of obligation passing as him “trying to do the right thing.” A metaphorical captive to his BMW, trudging through the night towards a new destiny, Locke buries himself in a series of bluetooth-enabled phone calls to his family and work that will occupy the film’s entire run time.

Absconding from what we would normally call responsibility, Locke’s plight is an almost heedless attempt to break from the legacy circle. His attempts to step out from the footsteps of his absentee father is tragically symbolic of the hubris of “collected” men; men of power destined for greatness. Although Locke never fits the part of controlling patriarch, his calculated but desperate attempts to play Mr. Fix It to everyone’s problems showcase both his naivety and strength, traits that Tom Hardy embodies and radiates.

With Locke acclimating to the off-suit hand he’s been dealt, Hardy is given ample opportunity to flex his significant dramatic chops. Though he’s mostly known for his physically brutish roles (look no further than his turn as Bronson and Bane), Hardy should not be overlooked as a dramatic powerhouse and Locke is proof of that fact. Watching Hardy try to remain calm and collected shows unmatched restraint, even when his life goes up in flames.

Locke shows us that when all goes to hell, you never dictate the reactions of humans. Sometimes when we think the pieces are just scrambled, the puzzle ends up having shotgun-sized hole blasted in its center. There are just some things you can’t fix. Likewise, Locke’s attempts to maintain composure in his darkest hour is an exercise in holding fistfuls of sand. And though these elements provide some lasting dramatic tension, they lack the stakes to keep us invested for the duration of a feature film.

Filmed guerilla-style over the course of eight days, director Steven Knight had Hardy relive the entire 85-minute saga time-and-time again without dividing takes into traditional scenes. Immersive as this art-imitating-life experience must have been for Hardy, the method-level commitment doesn’t necessarily translate into a fully captivating final product. Greater films have managed the confines of a single-set shoot (look at Buried) but Locke can’t live up to this hardy task. Instead, a lackluster script, sparse story development, and droning repetition produces tiring monotony that wears on the audience like a grinding axel.

Wasted opportunities for much needed atmospheric claustrophobia are as evident as anything onscreen and it’s squandered moments like this that detract from Locke‘s overall impact. Another major ding for the script department involves a series of scenes spent communicating with someone who isn’t there. Although it has it’s place in the narrative thread and character arc, it just doesn’t play well and jars our sense of reality.

So while there are great things to be found in Locke (hearing Hardy sport a proper Welsh accent is worth at least a few scenes), ennui ultimately takes the steering wheel and drives us in haphazard directions. But what can we expect from a film that spends a good thirty minutes discussing concrete?

C+

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