A film with only one visible character throughout is almost completely dependent on the quality of the actor. Luckily, Tom Hardy is more than capable of shouldering such a burden. It’s an incredible, surprisingly nuanced performance from a man best known for his over the top characters. From Bronson to Bane, Hardy is synonymous with violently unhinged sociopaths, but as Ivan Locke, he’s a softly spoken man intent on doing the right thing.
Ivan Locke is a beloved father, husband and well-regarded construction manager, hours away from the biggest job of his career. After a mistake threatens to tear his life apart, Ivan locks himself in his car and drives away from his comfortable life and his demanding career, determined to do the right thing regardless of the personal and professional cost. More of the story is gradually revealed over the course of numerous in-car telephone calls and intense, borderline-maniacal, monologues. These monologues seem to be as much a cathartic release for Locke as they are exposition for us.
The supporting cast really accentuate Hardy’s performance. Without ever appearing on screen, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson et al portray real, relatable people just through telephone conversations with the titular character. An astounding feat.
With the entirety of Locke taking place inside a BMW, director Steven Knight is faced with some daunting restrictions. As good as Tom Hardy’s performance and as riveting as his dilemma is, it falls on the director to keep us glued to the screen. With his previous film, Hummingbird, failing to generate much positivity from critics, it’s a relief to see Knight excel. The screen is positively aglow with city lights, reflecting off surfaces and breaking up the mundanity of a Birmingham to London commute.
A fruitful marriage of excellent direction and one incredible performance, Locke is a rich, real tale worthy of your attention. Proof that the simplest of things are often the best.