Locke

by Martin R. "Vargo" Schneider

EXPECTATIONS: I'm getting a real reminder of Buried and 127 Hours from the trailer for Locke. But it's like the film studio decided that this time around, they'd pick an actor we'd actually want to spend two hours with! Other than that, I have nothing to go on here, so overall my expectations are that I will probably watch Tom Hardy drive a car. It has literally never been easier for a film to please me.

REALITY: Sometimes things are just beyond your control. No matter how much of a handle you may think you have on things, the world always has the potential to throw chaos in your direction, and often it comes from your attempt at control. For example, you may not mean to become transfixed by a man driving a car and muttering to himself and/or other people, but sometimes these things just happen. Locke knows this, and it will take every opportunity to remind you of it, but that's actually not really a bad thing.

Locke refers to Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), a top-rate construction manager and everyone's favorite guy (as the characters often remind us), who spends the duration of this film in his BMW driving to London to to fix a series of mistakes. Specifically, Locke has learned that his illegitimate child is coming, the result of a one-night pity shag with a woman he barely knows (Olivia Colman) and he has made the decision to be present for the birth. This is also the eve of the biggest foundation-laying project of his career and in his absence he is attempting to train a nervous drunk contactor (Ben Daniels) to manage a record-setting concrete pour. Also, he has to tell his wife (Ruth Wilson) of his affair and incoming child. All of this is done through a series of phone calls made through the Bluetooth feature of his car. Locke is the only character we see on screen, the rest are all vocal performances. This means that the entire film rests on Hardy's capable shoulders, as we watch him try to keep his shattering life and career together while occasionally breaking down to have conversations with his imaginary deceased father in the back seat.

So, compare the plot summary I just gave you to the one listed on IMDB:

"Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career that sets in motion a series of events that threaten his careful cultivated existence."

This is what the movie looks like.

While not inaccurate, this does give Locke a misplaced sense of melodrama. In the grander scale, the stakes in Locke's situation are much lower than those of similar films. He's not buried alive, or stuck under a rock, there's no disembodied voice threatening to shoot him or his family if he doesn't do a series of insane stunts. In the drama rankings of this oddly specific subgenre, Locke's tension level rates somewhere just above that of Trapped In The Closet, with significantly fewer midgets.

That's really the point, however, and what makes Locke such a universally accessible movie. Most of us won't be buried alive, unless you have some sort of weird burying fetish and have somehow found a willing partner, but driving down a long highway by yourself to some place you don't want to go is a much more common form of temporary imprisonment. This familiarity is part of the key to Locke's success. (Puns!)

It's an intensely human film, built around relatable feelings and situations. Just as the streetlamps or taillights of the highway late at night are dangerously hypnotic, so too is Ivan's situation. Director Steven Knight uses the unusual but instantly recognizable aesthetic of the foggy highway and passing lights to create a strange sense of& well, not really claustrophobia, but definitely entrapment, in the sense that someone travelling would say they were "trapped in a car" for three hours. This is part of a series of recognizable emotions and themes which Locke evokes. It doesn't need threats or mysterious backstories, it is just fine with the universally-acknowledged feelings of imagined control, guilt, and animosity towards our parents.

Beyond the aesthetic, the entirety of this film's power comes from Hardy's remarkable performance. Hardy's depiction of Locke evolves greatly from conversation to conversation, showing us a man who normally controls everything being forced to admit that there are many things he cannot manage. Halfway through the film, you will realize that there's no plan here, Locke isn't going to leave his wife, we're not going to see him raising this child, and the film can only end one of two ways - He either makes it to his destination or he doesn't. That's when you realize that Locke has no idea what he is doing either, and Hardy has done an excellent job of hiding that from us this whole time. A man who plans foundations his whole life suddenly has no foundation to his plans.

Locke deals in the things we cannot ever fully control, even though we think we can: The arrival of a baby, the flow of traffic, the merger of sperm and egg and, most importantly, other people's emotions. Credit should be given to Locke's supporting vocal cast, all of whom are really the driving force behind the film's descent into emotional frustration. For such a low-stakes film, Locke is surprisingly tense and a bit draining to watch, and that's what's so good about it. Of all the surprisingly-common "Man trapped in a _____" films, this is the most human and possibly the most frustrating, because everyone else is trapped by an outside force. Ivan Locke's highway imprisonment however is entirely his choice, caused completely by him. That is real. And that is terrifying.

Story7/10
Visuals (Considering it's a Man In a Car For 90 Minutes8/10
Tom Hardy10/10
The Voices In His Head9/10
Not-Subtle Themes8/10
Overall45/50

MINORITY REPORT: I was mostly just intrigued to see if Marty could correctly identify Hardy's accent in this movie. Seeing as he skirted around the issue, I think it's safe to assume that he did not. - Ian "Professor Clumsy" Maddison

- The Official Current Releases Facebook

– Martin "Vargo" Schneider (@SchneidRemarks)

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