There’s really nothing special about Ivan Locke, he’s actually quite common. He has a wife and two children. He departs for work every morning in a respectable vehicle and returns home to his family at day’s end. He dresses satisfactory, has a scruffy beard, and catches colds like the rest of us. At his place of employment, he answers to his superiors and manages those with an inferior title. He struggles mightily with his own mortality and cheers on his favourite football team. For reasons beyond his control, Ivan was deprived of a father figure growing up and sadly lives his life to achieve an unreachable status of fatherhood immaculacy, a goal his neglectful dad could never dream of fulfilling.
Ivan has lived his life as if it were a blueprint. He takes excruciating precautions not to misstep, as he understands the consequences of an error, no matter how small. Unfortunately however, Ivan has made but one mistake in his trivial existence and it will end up costing him everything. For you see, on any other day, Locke would be retuning home about now, but he should have realized that a single mistake sets off a chain reaction. And like a series of dominoes tumbling over one another, Ivan’s empire, slowly but surely, will collapse… Yes, I guess you could say Ivan Locke is nothing special.
If I’m to be honest, there’s a multitude of reasons why Steven Knight’s “Locke” is such a triumph. It’s incredibly strong dialogue, endless chain of symbolic metaphors, and brilliant use of rhetoric and pathos sets a marvellous, nearly flawless foundation which allows director/writer Steven Knight, his crew, and ensemble to not only take risks and part ways with convention, but to thrive inside their own trial and error. They consistently violate and push their own discoveries to an extreme like no filmmakers have done before them. I mean, some of the things done in this film left me flabbergasted. Not to mention that the realism of “Locke’s” premise, dialogue, and circumstances gracefully and painfully transcend the screen. In fact, it’s so revolutionary that regardless of the fact if you enjoy the film or not, one can’t help but admire and revere what Knight and company have done here. With “Locke,” less is truly more.
I do find it odd however, rather ironic actually, that a film centred around the notion that safety comes with structure and convention has such disdain towards method and canon. I mean, at countless moments we are gagged with the premise that to build something concrete, one needs feasibility, rules, design and stability. And yet, Steven Knight’s “Locke” is existing, contradictory proof. It’s quite the paradox when you think about it.
“Locke” is experimental, minimalist cinema at its finest. The film was shot entirely on three cameras mounted inside a BMW with only a handful of external shots sparsely spliced in. In addition to a minuscule budget, “Locke” was filmed in its entirety from start to finish each night twice during production, with Hardy inside the vehicle and the voice actors in a hotel room calling the number connected to the X5. There are so many little quirks and factual tidbits about the film that you just have to investigate and experience for your self. Like Tom Hardy having come down with a head cold immediately before production so the script was changed so his character could accommodate the sickness. Additionally, Hardy’s seemingly brilliant sporadic anger fits are just a bi-product of the X5’s incessant “low fuel warning” alarm interrupting his performance.
Now, with a director like Terrence Malick, for example, the scope can never be too large. Knight’s latest on the other hand, takes it down to the microscopic scale. And although the amplitude may vary, I can assure you there are equal amounts of talent and dedication on either end. And while Knight isn’t exactly new to filmmaking, actually he’s quite the wily veteran, he is still getting ahold of directing as “Locke” is only his second full-length feature behind the camera. It’s rather comical actually seeing as one would think Knight had been directing his entire life judging by the caliber of “Locke.” His mastery of the film’s mood is nothing short of superb. His ability to create this dark, almost apocalyptic atmosphere that lingers so heavy on the screen translates to his characters and the film’s overall effectiveness. Of course, it does help that the film’s soundtrack is as hauntingly ambient and foreboding as they come.
If you know me at all, it should be crystal clear that I can’t say enough good things about Tom Hardy. The guy’s a one man show, literally. I honestly thought I’d seen his best, but once again Hardy manages to dazzle in ways I never thought possible. I know I’ve been praising Knight’s technique, inventiveness, and ingenuity a lot in this review, but his efforts would have been for nothing had Hardy not carried the film in the manner he did. Shifting from a stoic, control hungry realist to an inconsolable and flawed man with seemingly little-to-no effort, Hardy appears to get better with each outing. His voice, eyes, and demeanour give Hardy unbelievable control of the screen, and the fact that the film takes place in such a confined space only enhances his abilities. I know it’s early, but Hardy’s performance in “Locke” is easily the best of 2014 thus far.
Ingenious, hard-hitting, and undoubtedly simple, “Locke” is an expressionistic piece that is, without question, one of a kind. Featuring a phenomenal performance from Tom Hardy and stern, resourceful direction from Steven Knight, “Locke” is one of 2014’s must-see.
Locke: 9 out of 10.