LOCKE. Starring Tom Hardy, voices of: Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Bill Miner, Tom Holland, Andrew Scott, Danny Webb. Directed by Stephen Knight. Rating MA 15+ (Strong coarse language).
Locke is an evocative name for this film because the audience, in a sense, is locked into one place for the whole 90 minutes. For those philosophical bent, they might wonder whether the title comes from David Locke. And the place where the central character and the audience are locked is in a car, moving along an English Motorway one evening.
The film has been written and directed by Stephen Knight, prominent writer for such films as Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things, Hummingbird. Interestingly, reviewers who like his tough films neglect to mention that he wrote the screenplay for the immensely popular The Hundred Foot Journey.
The film opens at a huge building site which we learn is to have a record-breaking quantity of cement to be delivered for a precision pour the next morning. We learn also that the supervisor, Ivan Locke, is driving away from it. He gets into his car as does the audience, the director skilfully moving the camera within the car, looking into the car from outside, as well as showing the flowing traffic, the speed and slowing down, eliciting a sense of our being passengers with Ivan Locke.
What is interesting is the drama that Ivan is involved in, the several decisions he has to make, the growing tension because of these decisions.
The main reason that he is driving to London is that a woman that he was associated with but did not really know is about to give birth to his child. It is premature. She wants him to be present at the birth for support and security. This means that, because his wife does not know, he has to tell her the truth and experience the consequences. The complication here is that he has two sons. But Ivan Locke is a good man, a man of principles, someone who tells the truth and is prepared to accept what follows from the truth.
But what makes for further dramatic tension is his driving away from his responsible work at the building site.
What connects all these decisions is the phone in his car. His journey is filled with phone calls, calls he makes as well as calls to him. He treats most of them in a very calm way because that is his personality, but the pressure on him is enormous.
Taking it for granted that he is hurrying to the birth, the anxiety is about how the woman will cope, with phone calls from the nurse and from her doctor, explaining the necessity for Caesarean surgery. Our emotional concern is how his wife responds and the contact with his sons who are watching a football match on television. The responsibility tension is his contact with two of the men who will be participating in the pouring of the cement, a supervisor who contacts the bosses of the International Corporation in Chicago who, to say the least, are not pleased. The other man is on the spot, and Ivan has to get him to make sure that the organisation for the pour, the stop-go action in the surrounding streets is organised (with complications from the police who want a signature with only 25 minutes to get it, finding the phone number of the local councillor, contacting him at a restaurant to ensure that all is in order). The man on site has been drinking, initially denying it, and Ivan has to get him to ensure that everything is ready, which includes his running to another building site and enlisting the help of some extra expertise.
Quite some action off-screen.
This ensures that we have 90 minutes of personal drama as well as industrial drama.
It is to the credit of Tom Hardy (who has become very popular in films in the UK as well as internationally and is to be the new Mad Max) that audiences are engaged with him, sympathise with him, hope for him… It is a very effective performance, all the more so because of his sitting at the steering wheel for the whole of the film.
The film also has strong British voice talent for those at the other end of the phone: Olivia Colman as the pregnant woman, Ruth Wilson as the wife, Bill Miner and Tom Holland as the boys (the final phone conversation with one of his sons indicates that there might be some hope), Andrew Scott (Moriarty in the Sherlock television series) as the man on the spot.
Audiences might not be in the mood for watching this kind of confined drama, but it is well worth watching.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Out September 1 2014.