If you haven’t heard of this film yet, there’s a good reason. It went from idea to finished product in less than a year, and shot in just two weeks. It’s the second directorial effort from Steven Knight (the Jason Statham-starring Redemption, released earlier this year being the first), whose fast becoming a go-to writer in Hollywood. Knight is the man behind the scripts for Amazing Grace, Eastern Promises, the just released Closed Circuit, and the forthcoming Seventh Son as well as his own films.
Locke party to the recent rash of films that focus on a single on-screen character (see Gravity and All is Lost). And while Locke doesn’t isolate its character in the same way, like the latter of those two movies, Tom Hardy’s Ivan Locke is, with a singular exception, the only character who appears on-screen. Ivan Locke is a construction site foreman who, on the eve of the biggest job of his career, finds himself driving through the night out of a deep sense of right and wrong. We won’t spoil exactly what or why, as the entirety of Locke plays out through numerous phone calls Ivan has with his wife, children, and coworkers over the course of his drive. That’s right, channeling its inner 12 Angry Men, the film takes place entirely within Ivan’s car.
With exceptions to a few details (and a minority of critics), Locke is being applauded for its measured, slow playing character study that teases out the story of a generally good (but flawed) many who finds his world unraveling. The story takes place nearly in real time, and is carried, by all accounts, by a tour de force performance by Hardy. The supporting pieces are being praised as well, in particular Knight’s direction which comes off far more mature than a sophomore effort. The extreme minimalism of the filmmaking makes it difficult to say much more; the script is generally thought strong, brought home not only by Hardy’s performance, but by the voicework of the supporting cast of Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, Tom Holland, Ben Daniels (none of whom are ever seen). The music and camerawork are being lauded as well. The only sticking points (and they are consistent gripes) seem to be a few instances where the script calls for Ivan to monologue against the specter of his absentee father and a couple other overstated rough patches (in a film that relies so heavily on its dialogue, there were bound to be a few).
Finding a wide audience could be difficult. At an 84 minute runtime, the film hardly tries one’s endurance, but the patience of a public reared on action and special effects could be tested in such a slow playing, contemplative movie. Locke is still seeking distribution, and its appearance at Venice Film Festival is it’s only scheduled festival stop for the moment.