Steven Knight, which we know for his work as a scriptwriter for Eastern Promises and Amazing Grace, decided to go low-budget for his second feature as a director and left 80 minutes hanging on the performance of Tom Hardy, on probably one of the most experimental and daring films of the year.
Ivan Locke is the supervisor of a building site in Wales, but as he’s informed that his baby is being born prematurely, he leaves everything and drives to London. From then on, we’re always inside the car with him and his bluetooth set, while a succession of phone calls to his wife, to the mother of the baby, to his boss and to his colleague put all his present life at stake. We watch him dangle between the necessity of doing the right thing and be there for his son’s birth (in a moral and angry answer to his own father, whose ghost he addresses on the backseat), or get back to his family and work obligations.
No one can question the boldness of giving us a whole feature inside a car with one actor to hold it all, but though Tom Hardy gives an incredible performance (going through all the stress and conflict thrown at him while he drives through the motorway), in the end, there’s a limit of shots one can do inside a car, and Locke feels like a great idea for a short film that unfortunately was stretched too much. The constant dissolves and superimpositions feel random and do nothing to create tension for the film, that is a kitchen sink drama disguised as a thriller. There isn’t enough suspense to hold us, and the dialogues have a soap opera quality that definitely does not help us taking the characters seriously – something even made worse by the unnecessary inclusion of the father’s ghost on the backseat (after all, this isn’t a Greek play). Exception made for the conversations between Locke and Donal (Andrew Scott), who actually have a ring of truthfulness to them.
For Locke, it may be all about the concrete, but for us it felt it was all about a promo ad for the BMW’s bluetooth system. We’re all for low-budget films, and for experimental ones, but that does not excuse the king to put on some clothes. Apart from Hardy and Scott’s voice, there’s not much to see here, folks.
Locke will be released in UK cinemas on April 18th.