A man driving in his car and talking to various people via the automobile’s hands-free phone device. For nearly 90 minutes. That’s all the action we get here. Sounds incredibly compelling, am I right? Actually, yes. Believe it or not, Locke is not a pretentious exercise in torturing its audience à la Andy Warhol’s dreadful Empire (a static shot of the Empire State Building lasting 8 hours--no, seriously), but actually a fascinating, surprisingly thought-provoking character study that takes full advantage of its claustrophobic setting to deliver maximum anxiety and drama, proving that independent filmmakers still have a much better handle on that type of thing than Hollywood does. Or probably ever will, for that matter.
The character being studied here is Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), a construction foreman finally heading back home from his job on the night before the biggest day of his career. Only he winds up not going home. The fact of where he is going, along with some sudden complications regarding his work, leads to a series of events, all documented on these phone calls, that will ultimately destroy his perfectly constructed life forever.
Of course, audiences weren’t too interested in seeing something like that (the film only grossed $5 million against its $2 million budget), but it’s really a shame that they would miss out on what is by far one of the most unexpectedly great films of the entire decade. Though the smartly realistic (if admittedly depressing) ending and fittingly brown-tinted cinematography obviously help boost that claim a lot, what it all really comes down to is Hardy’s performance as the cold, yet emotionally vulnerable, Locke, which is so consistently amazingthat it’s hard to tell he’s even acting at all.
Admittedly, keeping track of all the complicated events going on proved to be a bit difficult at times, so I can’t grantLockethe perfect score it otherwise deserves, but with all things considered, it still gets my very highest recommendation nevertheless. Another point of interest about the film: it is the first non-documentary film from the celebrated A24 studios that I have had the pleasure to watch myself (the first one ever being the fun Oasis: Supersonic), and I am extremely happy to say that it certainly won’t be the last one, either.