Tom Hardy really seemed to hit his stride in 2011, starring in a string of movies that include Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Warrior, This Means War, The Dark Knight Rises and Lawless. Next May, Hardy will even star in a Mad Max reboot. An actor and a movie star, a rare breed. Let's watch him do that dramatic thing, a movie equivalent of a one-man show, 2013's Locke.
It's quitting time at a construction site in Birmingham, England, and construction foreman and site manager Ivan Locke (Hardy) has a difficult night ahead of him. The next morning construction is scheduled to begin on one of the largest skyscrapers in the country, Locke having ramrodded the process the entire way. He has received a phone call though that could drastically change his job, his family and his life as a whole. Now as he drives from Birmingham to London to hopefully resolve the situation, everything Locke knows is now thrown for a loop. It's not a long ride in terms of distance, but for Locke? This is one ride that could take its toll on him.
Okay, let's get this out of the way. I liked this movie, liked it a lot from beginning to end. All that said, it is definitely a film that deserves some warning. 'Locke' is described as a drama (most appropriate) and a thriller (less appropriate) depending on the review you're reading. I'm going to do my best to offer no real spoilers because the development of the story is best served when you discover it as Locke does. But enough with that. What is this movie? This is a movie about a man driving on the expressway talking on his synced-up phone. That is it. That is all. He doesn't talk face-to-face with a single person. He doesn't get in a traffic accident/incident. For 84 minutes, Tom Hardy talks on the phone with a variety of people with a variety of issues. Just know that going in, and don't say you weren't forewarned.
Tom Hardy is one talented mother...well, you know what. I've written more than a few reviews of movies based on plays that remotely feel like those plays they're based on. This is about as close to a one-man play as we're going to get in a modern feature film. This is Hardy's movie from beginning to end -- a fast-moving, fast-paced 85 minutes -- as he makes the drive from Birmingham to London. There's the potential for it to derail quickly, but Hardy keeps it going at all times. You see the inner struggles, the personal demons tearing him apart as he processes a decision that he wasn't quite ready to make. The voice inflection changes as we hear calm and cool, calculated and thoughtful, upsetting and frustrated, and it can change from one to the other with a snap of his finger. At no point does it ever feel forced, the rhythm and pacing flowing smoothly from one phone call conversation to another. Wow. Just wow for Mr. Hardy, already one of my favorites and here cementing that status.
Hardy's movie, no doubt about it. He's the only person you actually see, but we do hear the conversations he's having. Listen for Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Tom Holland and Bill Milner as the key voices at the other end of the line on the phone. Again, no spoilers, but it is definitely interesting to see the variety of responses and answers this small group of individuals responds to quite a trying situation. Nice voice work all around.
Replacing the stage is Hardy's Locke's car, our setting for almost the entire movie. We see Locke leave the work site and enter the car and from there, this is one car-bound movie. Director/screenplay writer Steven Knight keeps it visually interesting at all times. Told entirely at night, 'Locke' succeeds in the darkness. It's a movie that would not work in the daylight. The lights and traffic and lens flares add a nice visual dimension to the story. The camera is almost always moving, focusing on Hardy straight-on, from the side, as a peripheral almost. It may sound stupid to go into this much detail, but it is a smart, smooth style that isn't overpowering. It is a style that is content to be a quiet part of the story. Don't expect a crazy twist ending. Instead, 'Locke' has an ending that simply put, is human. It's real.
Definitely not an easy movie to like. It's not your everyday thriller or drama. Something better, something entertaining and a film that deserves some buzz.
Locke (2013): *** 1/2 /****