“Locke” is an experimental film; instead of big shiny set pieces and waves of lens-flare, the film opts instead for nothing more than a BMW and some taillights on the road. It is an exercise in pure minimalism, being truly just one man in a car. However, don’t be discouraged because “Locke” is every bit as engaging as any big-budget box office hit. With some beautiful cinematography, sharp dialogue and Tom Hardy’s deft acting prowess, “Locke” keeps audiences on the edges of their seats.
Genre-defying minimalistic films are cropping up every year, with amazing performances given by A-list actors like Sam Rockwell in 2009’s “Moon,” Ryan Reynolds in 2010’s “Buried” and Robert Redford in last year’s “All Is Lost.” Now with Tom Hardy joining the ranks as title character Ivan Locke, we see a perfect example of less being more.
Writer-director Steven Knight really created the ideal minimalistic movie here with “Locke.” The holder of an impressive set of writing credits (“Eastern Promises” and “Dirty Pretty Things”), Knight reinvents the thriller with his most intimate story yet, where it takes nothing more than a twitch or sigh to move the story forward. Filmed in just eight nights with a budget of fewer than $2 million, “Locke” serves as a reminder that films can entertain, engage and shock audiences without the $100 million plus budgets that have become a staple in modern cinema.
Hardy, best known for his roles as Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” and the shadowy Eames in “Inception,” embodies the role of construction manager Locke. A legend for his immaculate record, Locke chooses the eve of the biggest cement pour in Europe’s history to do something crazy, perhaps for the first time in his entire life. With his job and family in jeopardy, he has to juggle right and wrong via hands-free calling. As the tale of self-destruction slowly crystallizes, prepare to laugh and cry.
Told sparingly, the story moves forward through Locke’s visualized thoughts and interactions with an impressive voice-cast: Andrew Scott (Moriarty of BBC’s “Sherlock”), Olivia Coleman (Doris Thatcher of “Hot Fuzz”), and Ruth Wilson (Alice Morgan of BBC’s “Luther”) make up the core of the supporting cast.
While none of the three ever make it on-screen, they give impressive performances that, when coupled with Hardy’s one-man show, send the story flying forward one argument at a time. The audience here is but a passenger on the trip toward what may be the biggest mistake of Locke’s life.
Taut and gritty, “Locke” is proof that sometimes less can be more. With creative filming and editing, Knight has crafted a one-man tour de force brought to life by the incomparable Tom Hardy. “Locke” is a journey into one man’s unraveling life and the solace he finds at the end. It is exhilarating and fascinatingly melodic, a masterpiece of writing and a must-see for any film lover.