The trailers and marketing bumf have been a little misleading for Locke. Or maybe it was just me. I was of the mind that Locke would be a suspense thriller of sorts. The escalating tension alluded to in the trailer seemed to suggest that Tom Hardy’s protagonist was facing a perilous situation, as if perhaps a heist had gone wrong, or his head was about to be placed on the block.
To some extent the latter is true, but emotionally rather than literally. Ivan Locke is a construction site foreman. It is the night before a record breaking concrete pour which will lay the foundation for a huge new building. But Ivan receives word that a woman he once slept with is having his child that night, and so in an attempt to redeem a semblance of chivalry he makes the drive from Wales to London. During the drive he must make several phone calls to attempt to salvage the job, explain the situation to his wife and children, and keep the expectant mother calm; in other words he must risk everything. All of this can only be done via a Bluetooth device (Da da daaaah).
The concept is exciting, fresh and engaging despite the fact we never leave the car. Tom Hardy is the only actor we ever see and so huge kudos must go to writer/director Stephen Knight for keeping the film interesting. It is also a film that excels in its subtext and symbolism. As the story progresses and the problems grow, Ivan remains steadfast and precise; always looking to take practical steps and “fix things”/”smooth them over”. Suddenly it becomes so obvious why Knight decided to give Locke the back story he has.
Less effective is the idea that Locke has several one way conversations with the imagined ghost of his philandering father. The first time this happens we understand that he wants to avoid making the same mistakes as his dad, that he resents him, that he feels like nothing because of him. So when these moments happen again and again it feels like overkill. It pulls at the reality of the film and becomes almost like a GCSE drama group having a go at a kitchen sink drama. Far more effective would have been the addition of another person on the phone – a trusted friend that Hardy could have poured his heart out to. Or even just to wrestle with these issues whilst talking to himself.
Even with this in mind, Tom Hardy’s performance is wonderful in its understatement and contained frustration. At first his Welsh baritone accent is a little close to his Bane performance and takes a few minutes to accept. But once you’ve settled with the voice it becomes yet another knockout Hardy turn. He maintains a focus that is mesmerising, and never overplays the suppression of anger with which his character repeatedly has to swallow.
This isn’t the kind of drama that builds and builds towards some sort of explosive outburst. It is much more ambiguous than that. And though there are moments of immense emotional outpouring, they come in fits and starts, messy and unpredictable as they would in real life.
For me though it lacked something. Yes I was engaged and yes I enjoyed seeing how the story twisted and turned through the various calls that were made and received. But perhaps due to my earlier mentioned expectations about the film’s seeming to be more of a nail biter than an understated drama, I came away feeling kind of deflated. That probably says more about me than the film, but either way it didn’t quite measure up to the pre-supposed image I had of it. So I look forward to seeing it again, knowing what’s coming and simply enjoying the ride – and until then I blame the film’s marketing team for my skewed perception. Yeah that’ll work. Always blame the marketing team. Damn them!