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Monday, September 15, 2014

Review: Locke

Beyond Bane: Tom Hardy is the Next Big Thing

By Chris Sabga

Release Date: April 25, 2014 – U.S.
Rating: R
Genre: Drama
Running Time: 85 minutes
Director: Steven Knight
Writer: Steven Knight
Cast: Tom Hardy, Ben Daniels, 
Andrew Scott, Ruth Wilson, 
Bill Milner, Tom Holland, 
Olivia Colman

"Locke" clocks in at a taut 85 minutes. The entire film is spent behind the wheel of a car. The only person we ever actually see is the driver, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy). He interacts with several people during his journey, but only over the phone. He calls his family, but he's not going home. He speaks to his boss and assistant, but he's not showing up for work in the morning. Instead, he's going to London – for reasons that will be revealed over the course of the drive.

Every other movie openly celebrates the irresistible allure of the open road. Not this one. There are no dazzling sights to see. Locke snails through an average English highway at night. Everything is dark and dull, ordinary and listless. One area blends into the next. Despite the mundane setting, the roads take on an eerie, foreboding quality.

In some ways, it's similar in structure to "Buried" from a few years ago – which featured Ryan Reynolds inside a coffin – but this is (thankfully) much less disturbing and claustrophobic.  

Flashing police lights add tension to an already volatile situation by slowing Locke down and forcing him to maintain the speed limit. Locke is locked in. Of course, there's always the ever-present threat looming of being stopped by the police and further delayed.

Then there's the matter of Locke's persistent coughing and sniffling. What does it all mean? In any other film, it would foreshadow the character's fate. But this is a driving movie without a road trip, no high-speed races or chases, and not an explosion in sight. One could possibly surmise that Locke's physical deterioration symbolizes the similar erosion of his life – but sometimes the common cold is just the common cold!

"Locke" plays with the standard "grammar" of film by taking the audience's expectations and subverting them.

This is an actor's showcase for Tom Hardy. Every scene hinges on his facial expressions and vocal inflections. It's an incredible performance. But special mention must also be made of his supporting cast, who have only their voices to work with. They include Ben Daniels and Andrew Scott (who play Locke's boss and co-worker, respectively), Ruth Wilson, Bill Milner, and Tom Holland (his wife and kids), and a few others he interacts with along the way – most notably Olivia Colman. In some ways, they have the more difficult job. They have to create relationships with the main character and further the story along – all without ever actually appearing onscreen. The two children ("Son of Rambow's" Milner and "The Impossible's" Holland) are especially strong in their roles. Mostly, they ramble on about a soccer match, but their enthusiasm and intensity really brings Locke's unseen family to life. Locke's overwhelmed assistant, Donal ("Sherlock's" Andrew Scott), is another highlight.

"Locke" is a unique experience. It won't be for everybody. For me, it's one of the coolest films of the year. Tom Hardy is a riveting presence. He's been in high-profile roles before (Bane in "The Dark Knight Rises"), but this puts him on the map as a major talent to watch closely. 

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