“Do it for the concrete! Do it for the piece of sky that we are stealing!” – not words you expect to hear in a thriller. Particularly not when they’re words that roll out of Tom Hardy’s mouth in a quasi-ridiculous, yet ultimately entirely compelling Welsh drawl.
The man is Ivan Locke, a well respected foreman on a construction site. A man who specialises in, and is beguilingly passionate about, concrete. The film opens at the end of a day’s graft on the site, with Locke getting into his car. A car neither he, nor the camera, leaves for the duration of the film. This singularly reduced narrative location by no means reduces the potential of the film itself. Instead, Locke is saturated with a refreshing creativity and vigour from start to finish.
As his initially mysterious car journey proceeds, the character of Ivan Locke slowly unravels. We get an idea of the high esteem his family and colleagues hold him in, and watch as these feelings slowly collapse around him as he makes his nail-biting, yet speed limit adhering, motorway trip.
Unlike other solo-performance flagships such as Castaway, the drama in Locke is very much tied to dialogue and character interaction. A series of phone calls litter the film, with Ivan juggling a collapsing marriage, a potentially collapsing building and jeopardised employment. There’s an almost electric sense of dread permeating the film as these conversations unfold; the devastating moral implications of Locke’s behaviour and decision-making process slowly come to light.
Light is another interesting aspect of this film. Lit in a noir-esque chiaroscuro, Ivan and his car’s interior are obscured by unlikely and expressionistic shadows which dart across the screen as headlights contort the otherwise very simple locale. While this lighting aligns Locke with a rich British history of noir thrillers, it also serves to highlight its distanciation from this earlier work in its break from familiar tropes.
At no point does the film feel tied to genre boundaries, with portions psychological thriller, kitchen-sink drama (in spite of the lack of kitchen sink) and comedy – all coalescing into the unique product that is Locke. Or perhaps it’s just a really odd Fast & Furious spin off.
Supporting audio-only cast comes in the form of the always delightful Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson and Sherlock’s Andrew Scott. Although Tom Hardy is superb in anchoring the film, delivering a fine and nuanced performance, the real star of the show is unquestionably writer and director Steven Knight. Knight delivers a film that’s at no point anything other than utterly believable, which isn’t as easy as you might think.
The script is tight drum and the direction competently places it on the screen. The only criticism is that Locke is perhaps a touch lacking in a strong artistic vision; shots of motorways and spinning wheels do become slightly tedious. However this is easily forgiven in the context of the film’s many virtues. All in all Locke turns around to be one of the most intriguing, unique and compelling British films of recent memory, solidifying Hardy’s status as one of our finest actors and laying the foundations for what could be a very promising directorial career for Steven Knight.
Locke is released in UK cinemas on Friday 18 April, 2014.
See the short trailer here: