As surprisingly different and simple as the plot may sound it works really well, and with Hardy in front and Knight behind the camera it's a winning combination. Another great find at the Glasgow Film Festival this year.
The first thing I should address is the fact that the film takes place in a single location. For the entirety of the film we are confined to the interior of the main character's car and the only person we have on screen is the main character, all the others are voices through his mobile on the car's Bluetooth speaker. It sounds like a big ask for a film, and it is, after all I don't think that there are many films with such constraints that actually work, Locke is one of the ones that does.
I carried concerns for the film from the very beginning for all the above reasons but I had a lot of hope for it considering that Steven Knight had written the script. He's previously written films such as Dirty Pretty Things, Amazing Grace and Eastern Promises and he has written a number of upcoming films which already look interesting. Not only did Knight write the film but he also directed, something he hasn't yet done with a feature film.
My main concerns rested around the problem of keeping the tension and suspense running for the entirety, after all we're relying on one leading character, some disembodied voices and the fixed location. In other thrillers we have many more characters and locations to build plot threads around, with Locke the plot has to be built and delivered through our single character's perspective and he will have to hold the film together. Also there's the question of just how many threads we could have going in the story with this set-up, and with less threads the ones that the film carries will have a lot more work to do to keep us engaged.
I've talked about all the limitations and hurdles the film faces but the fantastic news is that it manages to meet them all and exceed quite a few of them. I really was surprised at just how well it did especially since the story isn't one you might expect. I thought that the limitations on character and location would mean a clever heist or kidnapping plot, but I was really surprised when the plot turned out to be such a reality based story, almost a story of an everyday man, and that it worked so well because of that.
The story is superbly written and builds tension and a few key threads so well through simple telephone conversations. It's a real credit to the script that I felt as engaged and invested as I would with other more traditional thrillers, films packed with much more to keep the audience's attention. Steven Knight has done a fantastic job with the writing and given Tom Hardy some great lines and moments, entire threads such as dealing with the concrete, smaller moments such as the dialogue about the drying footprints, or the use of the concrete and buildings as an allegory for his own life. Watching the character trying to control the unravelling elements of his life as he would a building project is a very interesting aspect of the script and of the character who is as fantastically written as the rest of the story is.
The building of tension and suspense was another big surprise for me as there are only limited threads - there's the thread with the wife, the worker who is covering his job and the hospital. No international terrorists, kidnappers or spies, just plain everyday people with real life problems. Layering the tension through calls with each of the characters and calling back and forth between them is so cleverly written and brought to the screen. The snippets of conversations feel real and have some great dialogue, and the cuts between them are in such a position to build the tension naturally and easily. I was surprised at how easily I was taken into the character's life and problems, and just how well that tension affected me, particularly around the building site plans.
There were a few aspects of the story where I found myself wondering why they had been brought in, they may have simply been added as distractions to the main thread and to pad things out a little but they didn't feel as they were taken to some form of close. These were moments such as the thread about the father. It did feel a little confusing to begin with as it stood outside the normal framework of the lead character's interactions and it seemed to suggest something a little darker and uncertain about the character. What was good is that it did finally feel as though it had a little purpose for the character but equally it could have been removed and I doubt it would have made much difference to the story.
I'm still uncertain about the ending and whether it was a little too open ended and lacking a bigger punch. It was interesting that the stories ended as beginnings and that there really aren't any solid resolutions, just like real life all too often is. At the same time though I do wonder if the lead character's ongoing statement of what he was trying to do was actually at odds with what he decided to do at the end of the film - was it the wrong choice after all? While part of me craves for a different ending or perhaps more feeling of resolution, the fact that it has me thinking about it in this way is another huge positive for the film.
Now that I've talked about the story, let's talk about the other reason to see this film, the superb Tom Hardy. He's a fantastic actor and he delivers another great character performance here that holds you throughout. I loved his choice of accent, his mannerisms and the way he spoke to the people on the phone to try and manipulate them to his way of thinking. His performance is like a stage actor commanding the audience for the entirety of the play, and he's fantastic with that responsibility. This could be one of his best performances in his career.
Finally I should mention Steven Knight's direction. This is his first directorial outing and he's showing that his talent is not just in writing. There's a strong style to the film that manages to keep the flow with the story, not break away from the location and yet keep a feeling of dynamism in the visuals. The use of lighting not only makes us feel we're driving on the motorway during the night but also allows for some stylish moments. There's really not a lot of choice with the camera stuck in one cramped location but Knight has done well to keep us focussed on the main character and his story and yet give the film some life.
Locke is a superb film and come release you should get yourself to the cinema to see it. It stands out quite firmly from the films around it and manages to deliver a very strong thriller with the unlikeliest of characters, plots and locations. Steven Knight has done an excellent job scripting and directing the film and it's refreshing to become so engaged by a film that is so uniquely different and seemingly so far from a standard cinematic thriller. Yet Knight has delivered just that, an exciting and engaging thriller that has such a fascinating and completely believable leading character.
That character is played wonderfully by Tom Hardy who helps bring him to life and make you connect with him so quickly. You feel his pain and anxiety at the situation he faces and he delivers some of the very realistic dialogue flawlessly. I can't praise him enough in this role as he commands the screen and delivers a performance that at times feels as powerful as a Shakespearean stage play.
Locke is a highly recommended film and is a film that must be seen for its original and extremely clever scripting and direction, as much as for Tom Hardy's powerful and quietly thrilling performance.
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UK IMDB Film Details
Locke is released in the cinema on the 28th March in Finland; 18th April in the UK and Ireland; 25th April in the US; 15th May in Denmark; 16th May in Sweden, and 19th June in Germany.