If you have time this weekend, you might want to take in the film “Locke.” Written and directed by Stephen Knight, the guy who wrote “Eastern Promises” and “Dirty Pretty Things,” “Locke” is unique in the way it unfolds. After playing for a week at AMC, it has now moved to the Magic Lantern. Following is the review of “Locke” that I wrote for Spokane Public Radio:
A simple rundown of the plot that veteran screenwriter Stephen Knight dreamed up for his second directorial venture, which bears the single-word title of “Locke,” sounds like the outline for a what-NOT-to-do engineering tract.
Leave your job on the eve of a historically big project, put your shaky second-in-command in charge, attempt to give him directions – and support – over the phone while driving down the highway and fielding calls from a number of other concerned parties. What could possibly go wrong?
Knight’s movie begins with a man we come to know as Ivan Locke leaving an urban construction site. After removing his boots, and rolling up his sleeves, the man fires up his BMW and heads out on the dark highway. Once his Bluetooth comes online, he begins to make calls. And it is through those calls that we gradually learn who Locke is, what he is doing – and what the likely consequences will be.
Who Locke is, on the surface at least, is the chief manager of the work site he has just left. He is married, the father of two boys and – from all appearances – a loving parent and husband. What he is doing – again, from all appearances – is throwing his career, indeed his very life, into the trash.
He tells his assistant, the befuddled Donal, that he will not be back in the morning when a concrete pour – the largest ever such pour in Europe – is scheduled to happen. And, he stresses, Donal must take over. But he assures his panic-stricken assistant that he – Locke – will talk him through the process. And everything will be all right, just as long as Donal lays off the drink. What do you think the chances of THAT will be?
Then the other calls begin. Locke has to explain what he is doing to his own boss, who is as prone to panic as Donal. And far harder to placate. He has to explain to his wife why he won’t be returning home that night. He has to make calls to city officials that Donal cannot. Most important, he talks to a mysterious woman who, we come to learn, is in the process of giving birth – and who, we also come to learn, is the McGuffin that has set Locke on his life-altering course.
All of this occurs in real time, over the course of Knight’s 85-minute film. And other than the switches from one caller to the next, continual shots of traffic as it passes by, and Locke’s own inner dialogue – portrayed as a one-way conversation with his non-existent father – everything is centered on the actor Knight wisely chose to portray his protagonist.
You’ve seen Tom Hardy before in films such as “Inception,” “Warrior,” the insipid romantic comedy “This Means War” and behind a mask as the villain Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises.” But you’ve never seen him like this: so effective as a man, driven to do what he thinks is right, even if it means losing everything he loves.