Review: Locke

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Automobiles have the ability to take us to anywhere on terra firma, and yet when in them we are suddenly out of control of our external lives. Though we may travel in order to alleviate an emergency, we are confined to this claustrophobic vehicle until we reach our destination. How do we manage these situations if we are unable to be immediately present for them in person? Locke takes this conflict head on, devoting its entire focus to one man in his car and the tempest of his life unfolding outside. While its shot choices and editing approach monotony, the square focus on its embattled protagonist and Tom Hardy’s weathered performance make it an anxious study of a man at a crossroads.

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) has been battling personal issues for several months now, but tonight they are all coming to a head. A construction manager on the eve of the commencement of a major project, he receives a phone call that forces him into a nearly impossible situation. The issue is of great importance to him, but it threatens to derail his professional career and tear apart his personal life. Over the next couple of hours he is on his way to London, on the phone with colleagues and family doing his best to put out any fires that he can. Even though the film makes clear what his predicament is within the first fifteen minutes, I’m abstaining from mentioning it directly. The conflict itself isn’t necessarily novel, but setting it within a single space makes Locke feel original. The changes in character and mood within a confined time and space reveal character in a unique way that other temporal shifts typically skip over.

Front and center in this one man showcase is Hardy, who gives Locke an everyman attitude pushed to the brink and doing his best to, as he puts it, “do the right thing.” One mistake in his past has led him to this crucial moment, and Hardy puts the audience in his exceedingly capable hands. Ivan Locke is essentially a decent, hard working man, but he is also painfully human, and as his professional and personal conflicts escalate, he begins to unravel. Hardy is never less than commanding as these layers peel away, but it sometimes feels like the film itself never quite trusts him to do the heavy lifting. It’s clear that Locke is headed to London, but since it is set entirely at night, the film never establishes his geography as it progresses. This type of disorientation actually works, as the cramped setting of the car takes precedence over the external environment, enclosing Locke until the situation is resolved. However, the shot choices feel repetitive, and the film restlessly cuts to different angles of Hardy when in some cases it would do better to simply hold on his face. The use of the coverage never quite cues in to the development of the narrative, and most of the cuts feel arbitrary rather than intentional. Granted, Locke is not without some creative visual moments, such as instances of long cross fades of the traffic over the visage of Hardy to accentuate the dour mood. Regardless of its dissonance between visuals and narrative, it is Tom Hardy that makes Locke a gripping character study. When he isn’t busy on the phone, he peers into his rearview mirror, seething to himself and perhaps to someone else, ready to lay bare and subsequently eradicate his demons.

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~ by romancinema on May 10, 2014.

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