Movie review: “Locke” is simple, yet powerful

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From the May 15, 2014 edition

Minimalist filmmaking can be successful as evidenced by “Locke,” a film featuring only one actor, Tom Hardy, on-screen in only one setting, his car, for the duration. The dramatic narrative of “Locke” is created by a series of (Bluetooth assisted) phone calls Ivan Locke (Hardy) has while driving.

The film begins with Ivan getting into his car after his workday as a dedicated and reliable construction manager responsible for orchestrating the assemblage of skyscrapers. Ivan is clearly weary, and when he decides to take a right instead of a left, his life changes forever.

On the eve of the biggest cement pour of his career — where if just the slightest detail goes wrong, hundreds of millions will be lost — Ivan is also having a personal crisis even more momentous. As we watch Ivan drive, he attempts to manage it all from the speaker of his car.

Now this doesn’t sound like a particularly compelling concept for a movie. But writer and director Steven Knight (screenwriter of “Eastern Promises” and “Dirty Pretty Things”) crafts an excellent, quickly paced script (clocking in at 125 minutes) built on real-life situations, and augments it with excellent direction. (Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos also deserves credit for shots conveying the claustrophobia of the car that reflects the conversations closing in on Ivan.)

While Knight and Zambarloukos deserve praise, “Locke” wouldn’t work without Hardy’s seamless performance; restrained, indignant, heartbreaking and narcissistic at all the right moments. Hardy is only acting with those he’s speaking to over the phone and does an excellent job at getting the audience to invest, given the stipulations of the script.

But Knight’s script also offers some interesting elements simmering beneath the surface; ruminations on fatherhood, the conditions of loyalty and a subtle case study on the god complex give “Locke” even more.

“Locke” surely won’t be for everyone, but those looking to challenge their perceptions about what filmmaking can be, should surely check it out. You’ll be appreciative.

Photo courtesy EPK.TV