11 08 2014

LockeLondon Film Festival, 2013

There’s no denying that a one-man show is a tough feat to pull off, so all props to Tom Hardy for holding the screen so effortlessly in “Locke.”  It takes true presence to power a film with no one else to play off physically, and Hardy keeps us strapped in for the real-time ride with him.

From no more than phone conversations, Hardy constructs a character who is far more than his surface roles of vital construction contractor and family man.  His Locke is a decent man who made a mistake and is trying to face the consequences while still keeping his world in orbit.  But he quickly finds out that maintaining balance will be a much loftier task than he initially expects.

We’re locked in the car with Locke (couldn’t resist the pun) as he drives from Birmingham towards a reckoning in London, alternating conversations with his boss, his wife, and another figure of great importance whose precise role I shall not spoil.  Unlike a similarly claustrophobic “127 Hours,” there are no cutaways, no flashbacks: it’s just this moment, and we’re trapped in it.

Director Steven Knight keeps the voyage visually interesting, finding just about every possible shot and angle of Hardy and the highway.  There’s something vaguely hypnotic about the way he captures the peculiar lighting of the road at night, and it imbues the film with an aesthetic calm that clashes interestingly with the big turmoil Locke is facing.

Yet I couldn’t escape this sinking feeling that “Locke,” for all the novelty of its packaging, was really just a rehash of very familiar dramatic stakes.  The issues and problems Locke wrestles with behind the wheel of his car feel like they’ve been played out before, and frequently.  No matter how you slice it, a banality is a banality.

Hardy and Knight do their best to freshen up the stale material, and they provide a smooth, slick experience.  But they don’t elevate “Locke” above the level where its narrative runs on anything more than gimmickry.  B2halfstars