Okay, so, I know this seems like a screwball choice, but bear with me. If you opened another tab and googled Locke just now, you’ve now doubt been met with results for a man named John Locke, who, while a truly commendable Enlightenment philosophe, has absolutely nothing to do with the 2014 film. If you’ve corrected that mistake and opened another tab with “Locke film” in the search bar then you’ve probably discovered the unique feature of this film- it all takes place in a car.
This film has Tom Hardy in the lead role, but utilizes voice talent from other notable stars like Andrew Scott (a formidable villain in the James Bond movie Spectre, and an even more formidable villain in BBC’s Sherlock), Ruth Wilson (BBC’s Luther and The Affair) and, to a much lesser extent, Tom Holland (Spider-Man Homecoming). The premise of the film is simple: a man, Ivan Locke, leaves an important construction project at a crucial time to drive to the birth of a child conceived during a one-night stand. During the drive, he fields calls from his wife, co-workers, and the woman currently in labor to deliver said child.
I feel like this film succeeds on two fronts. The first is in the writing. Writer/director Steven Knight scripts conflict beautifully and believably in this film. We all make mistakes, and it’s poignant to watch Ivan Locke struggle through the ramifications of his while attempting to make things right. In an effort to fulfill his duty to his unborn child, he puts his duties to both his job and his family on the line. It reminds me of the Japanese concepts of giri and ninjō. These two ideas are in conflict with one another because the first represents an obligation to do what society expects you to do and the other represents what you want to do. The way Locke’s written makes him an easy character to relate to. He’s flawed, but he’s trying really hard, and haven’t we all been there at least once?
The second success of this film boils down to Tom Hardy’s acting. I consider myself a semi-fan of his. That is to say, I’ve enjoyed every film I’ve seen him in, but I haven’t seen all, or probably even most, of his work. I really liked him in 2008’s Bronson, and his effort in that film is what made me go ahead and give Locke a shot. I feel like Hardy does a great job communicating Locke’s feelings on both the internal and external conflicts he’s facing. Hardy keeps the story feeling fresh despite a claustrophobic environment that, in less capable hands, could easily leave viewers feeling stagnated. I think we can all admit that it takes skill to keep things lively when you’re the only person on camera, in one location, for almost an hour and a half.
If you’re only familiar with Tom Hardy in relation to his roles in The Dark Knight Rises or Mad Max (both of which I also liked), then this film might take you by surprise. Similar to my other recommendation, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, this is a much quieter movie. It’s a bit off the beaten path from my usual fare, but that’s probably half the reason I dig it so much. Most of us enjoy the big budget films that roll through during the summer blockbuster season, but it’s also nice to get away from the stunts and explosions and watch an actor really showoff their acting chops (or maybe I’m just slowly becoming so insufferably pretentious that I’ve lost touch. Both options are equally likely, tbh).