As he drives home from a construction job, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) gets a phone call that throws his job, marriage and future into jeopardy. As he journeys to right the major wrong of his life, we learn more about the character through his interactions with the people in his life.
As Ivan Locke, a man whose life comes crashing down around his ears as he drives to London, Tom Hardy gives a rare performance. It is unusual for a lead character to spend the entirety of a film alone in his car, and it is even more rare for the audience to invest with such a character. Tom Hardy succeeds on both counts, with a rich Welsh accent that is soothing and delicious to listen to. Hardy makes Locke a good, gentle, devoted family man, but the actor is not afraid to allow the veneer Locke has built around himself to slip. First his job, then his wife and then… Who knows. Locke is a man who is guided by his father’s neglect of him, and who has vowed not to make the same mistakes his father did. Hardy is strong yet vulnerable and utterly compelling on screen.
Hardy is backed up by the voice talents of Ruth Wilson as his wife Katrina, Andrew Scott as his work colleague Donal, Olivia Williams as Bethan, the woman with whom he made the mistake that is costing him everything and Tom Holland as his son Eddie; each give remarkable vocal performances, which enrich Locke’s world and the world of the film. It is through his interactions with the people in his life – not least his absent and neglectful father – that we get to know Locke, and the reasons why he makes the choices that he does. After all, the whole crash of Locke’s life – and therefore, the film – could have been avoided by turning right instead of left.
Steven Knight has made a rare film in Locke, and one that should be applauded. It is a rare thing for the world of a film to be reduced to the inside of a car, and yet here it is, and the film is utterly engaging. So much is learned through phone conversations with the people in Locke’s life, and with those that influence him as a person. That said, however, there are times where the intrusion of the outside world feels unrelenting, and it would have been a welcome break for Locke to just sit in the car, and ruminate on where his life is going – if only for the sake of giving the audience a breather – for a moment.
Locke is an unusual, engaging and compelling film. Tom Hardy is on top form as the central character, and those who play voices at the other end of the phone make the world of the film deeper and richer. There are times where it feels as though we are learning too much – and too little – too quickly, but Locke is a worthwhile film, if even to remind ourselves of how strong an actor Tom Hardy truly is.