What to say about Locke? Well not a philosopher in sight in Steven Knight‘s curious tale, nor much else other than a well-known UK motorway, a BMW and a long series of telephone conversations as evening passes into night. It’s a movie set entirely in the protagonist’s motor as he drives from Manchester to London through the evening, a journey I know only too well. We view him, the car and the road from every conceivable angle, the lights, the noises, the full road trip experience.
Oh, and in case you hadn’t guessed, his name is Locke, Ivan Locke. He comes in the form of Tom Hardy with the aid of a soft Welsh accent but plenty of steely determination and a fair dollop of integrity as Locke grapples manfully with a host of issues, pretty much all of his own making.
In fact not a lot happens in this movie, nothing physical anyway – all virtual. Perhaps even less than your lowest expectations of what might happen, given the scenario. Four people walked out from the showing I attended, quite possibly because they expected more than a tersely wordy character study with as fair smattering of obliquely Pinteresque dialogue. I stayed to the bitter end, waiting perhaps to see which of several potential disasters might occur, though the full spectrum of human emotion have to be experienced before you find out. I won’t tell you that but will say that the primary concerns are a domestic crisis, a baby and concrete. Lots about concrete, I kid you not.
Now this is a film billed as a thriller; it’s not – more a kitchen sink drama on wheels with added Bluetooth, though as I said above, character study would be nearest the mark. Above all, we get under the skin of Locke, not only how he deals with personal crises but the fabric of the man, what makes him tick. And we have 85 minutes to observe minutely his reactions, more time than you would normally get in three or four movies. The essential claustrophobia is, dramatically, very effective, making the audience uncomfortable but that’s appropriate when you consider that the character is cloistered in a fast-moving metal box too.
I did spot one annoying continuity error as two junctions on the M1 were viewed out of sequence, suggesting that at some point our hero did an about turn and went back a few miles, but otherwise he drives on relentlessly and, in spite of his traumatic hands-free calls being contrary to police advice and the Highway Code, manages this without crashing.
Damn, I just dropped in a spoiler there, didn’t I? You were thinking he would lose it and plough through a central reservation and suffer a horrible death, weren’t you? Creditably, during this saga we are never given any impression he takes his eyes off the road for an unfeasibly long time (see my pet movie hates here.) Road safety is not compromised!
So what of Locke, the person? He is fundamentally a decent, family man, competent at his job but prepared in the final instance to sacrifice both family life and career to square his conscience against moral necessity. He is not overly demonstrative or melodramatic, so the few occasions he does explode into raw emotion are all the more effective, and even then they are sufficiently controlled that the car is never at risk.
Perhaps there is a weary inevitability about the breakdown of his life, that this is something he expects and just has to face – even if there is a silver lining edged with hope at the end. This is a man walking a tightrope and trying to maintain perspective, something we all have to do every day as we manage our own particular crises. Locke is an everyman, he is we.
Locke is a film you can admire and appreciate, rather than one you will love and place on your all-time list of fave movies. Like the two couples who walked out, this is not a movie that will appeal to the spectator who looks for all-action movies, but since that is not me I can certainly do the admiration bit.