An ordinary man does, well, ordinary things in the extraordinarily – executed Locke, a stripped-down thriller that uses precision of language and an incredible performance to amaze.
At a fork in the road, Ivan Lock changes directions at the last minute. It’s late at night and he has just finished work, stepping into a BMW in which he, and the audience, will stay for the next ninety minutes. Locke is a bearded and cold-stricken Tom Hardy, a successful construction manager who dabbles in concrete and is about to endure one of the most defining if not important evenings of his life.
His moniker is a direct allusion to John Locke, the Enlightenment philosopher who championed notions of self, identity, and consciousness. Still, Ivan Locke’s problems are rather mundane: he needs to direct a big dig at work that is happening the following morning without his presence, confess a sin to his wife, and deal with the repercussions of both.
Locke drives, and phones calls go in and out. He chats with his wife and two sons, as the boys are watching a football match unfortunately without their father. They get excited about the game in the beginning of the film, and fall back on it later on when familial relationships become strained.
There are two professional contacts too, one a worker who is required to undertake a monumental and unprecedented task, and the other a livid boss referred to as ‘bastard’ on the contact list. That too is telling; in addition to back-and-forth conversations, a plagued Locke chats to the spirit of his deceased father, looking back through the rear view mirror and defiantly justifying his actions.
It doesn’t matter exactly what Locke did, and it’s not secret. We learn early on what happened one regretful evening, and why Locke is now venturing the city instead of heading home to his family and preparing for a major day at work.
The metaphors, contained in the concrete, the mirrors, and names themselves, are smart without being too clever, and strong without big too cheesy. Despite the lone (and lonely) setting, it’s entirely watchable and gripping, with pauses and silences that allow you to register what has happened and ponder what’s next, without losing focus or pace.
It’s through modern style and technology that the film proceeds, but it’s indeed timeless, and speaks to the responsibility of men, the legacy of fathers, and attempts to provide structure to that which is inherently chaotic.
Through deft direction by Steven Knight and a sympathetic, captivating turn by Hardy, Locke is a thrill ride that is hypnotic and indelible. And never breaks the speed limit.