FlixChatter Review: LOCKE

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When I heard the premise of Locke, I was immediately intrigued by the idea of a one-man show in a confined environment. I knew it’d take the right actor, a substantially charismatic one, to pull off this role. Obviously the script and direction is just as crucial, and fortunately, those three elements work efficiently for the swift 85-minute running time.

The film is set entirely inside a BMW SUV. Within minutes of Ivan Locke climbing into his car and starts the ignition, we learn that he’s a successful construction manager and a dedicated family man. His wife and kids are waiting for him as an important soccer match is about to go on, one he and his kids have been anticipating for weeks. It also happens to be the eve of an important project, perhaps the biggest in his career, one his boss expects he’d supervise and make sure nothing goes wrong.

Seems that he’s got everything in his life under control… yet a single phone call causes him to drop everything and drive to London. Why? Well, to tell you would rob you of the experience watching this film. With every phone call Locke either make or receives, one by one the reason of his seemingly-rash decision is revealed. Yet there’s nothing impulsive about what Locke does that night, he seems to have a calculated, almost mechanical way of looking at things. It’s as if he sees things in his life, and how he responds to each conflict that arises, the same way he responds to concrete in his daily job.

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It’s quite a fascinating and well-crafted moral drama, one that really puts the audience into the roller-coaster emotional ride that our protagonist goes through. I was completely engrossed in this one man’s endeavor to salvage everything that matters to him, and I mean every single thing, this is a man who doesn’t seem to see the virtue of prioritizing. As I watch this, I kept thinking that something’s got to give, he just simply can’t have it all, try as he might.

Sorry to be so cryptic in this review but I feel that the less you know about the plot the better. So that’s a perfect segue to talk about the performances. Hardy is the only character we see in the film but there are a number of great voice actors such as Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman and Andrew Scott as the people who interact with Hardy on the phone. I think they all did a splendid job, most of all Hardy himself in a riveting and unforgettable role that just might garner him a slew of kudos come award season.

He’s speaking with a Welsh accent of some kind, channeling Anthony Hopkins at times in his manner of speaking. This is perhaps an actor’s dream to be able to use every bit of his facial expression and communicate emotion simply with their eyes or the smallest gestures, and Hardy definitely has what it takes. There’s a certain warmth about him yet within seconds he can be ruthless and even borderline psychotic. Now, that last part is why I can’t give this film a full score. I won’t say too much about it but let’s just say there are some really weird moments that I feel could’ve been toned down a bit. There’s already a lot going on in such a small time frame that it felt a bit too indulgent.

That said, I applaud Steven Knight (Eastern Promises, Dirty Pretty Things) for crafting such a unique cinematic experience. The night cinematography by Haris Zambarloukos (Thor) is striking, he somehow made highway driving look so dramatic and even artistic. Some people might complain that there’s not much action, but that actually what separates this from just another thriller flicks out there. For once it’s nice to see a regular guy at the center of the story, someone relatable that we could imagine ourselves or our friends being in a similar situation. There’s no government conspiracy, terrorist/kidnapping type of crisis he has to deal with. There’s no hero nor villain, just a man grappling with one VERY stressful night of his life. I love films that give me a lot to chew on after I watch it, especially in terms of morality and what is truly the right thing to do in a given situation. Locke definitely gives me that. Highly recommended.

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Have you seen Locke? I’m curious to hear what you think.

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64 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: LOCKE

  1. Great review Ruth. I was really looking forward to seeing this but I have cooled off a bit due to its really coarse dialogue. I’ll see it at some point. I really like Hardy.

    • Thanks Keith! Y’know, the coarse language didn’t bother me as much as it wasn’t done in a malicious way, I guess most people just talk like that. If you like Hardy, well he’s never been better here.

      • That’s an interesting thought and many of my friends and I have discussed that. Do most people talk like that or is that simply how Hollywood loves to depict people? I know some obviously do but there are many who don’t but you wouldn’t gather that from Hollywood’s vision. It’s an interesting thing to think on.

        • Well I know people at my work (and my hubby’s) talk like that, they use the F word in almost every sentence! I don’t like it obviously and my hubby never ever swear for as long as I’ve been married to him, but I know that a lot of people do, especially Brits! I think we’ve discussed this before, and sometimes I can tolerate it, sometimes I can’t. You might be right that perhaps Hollywood portray people as being foul-mouthed most of the time, it’s especially rampant in comedies!

        • Hey Keith, I usually don’t swear but when I’m around my friends and/or people I work with, we used the F-bombs many times. I always assume people talks like that in public but not in work place, school or any professional settings.

  2. I know you were very excited to see this film and am glad it wasn’t a disappointment. As you know I first took notice of Tom Hardy in Wuthering Heights, and am hoping his career will continue to flourish. Hopefully this will come to the Landmark, as I’m very curious to see what this is all about!

    • Hi Ashley! I’ve been a big fan of Hardy ever since Rocknrolla, but boy he’s come a looong way since then. I still need to see him in WH, I think it’s on Netflix streaming, so I should get on that.

  3. Excellent rating! Totally agree :). This film is unlike anything I’ve seen in a cinema, a truly unique, immersive experience. Hardy has never been better. I also struggled with spoilers writing my review for this, it’s so hard to relay the brilliance of the film without giving away so much as to destroy the experience for others. Anyway, tremendous post :).

    • Hi Joseph, glad to see you stop by :) It’s fantastic isn’t it, it definitely gave me a lot to chew on afterwards which is always nice. Yeah it was tough to write a spoiler-free review, but it’s really best going to this movie blindly.

    • Hi Billy! Well glad to hear man, it might take a while for it to be available for rental, but do see it as soon as you get a chance!

  4. Good review Ruth. It’s all Hardy, all the time, and I loved it for that. Not because he’s one handsome bad-ass, but because the dude can actually act and command our attention for nearly an-hour-and-a-half and never, ever get boring.

  5. Loved this film and I thought Hardy was outstanding. I agree that the less you know going in the better.

        • Y’know I kept thinking that not many actors can pull off such a role. I know my current crush Toby Stephens would be apt to the task (though he’s not as bankable as Hardy to get the project financed). It’s tough though as the script has to be meticulous as there are less things to *cover up* the flaws of the writing and performance. It’s darn near perfect IMO.

    • Ahah, he’s a fine looking man tho he’s kinda gruff looking here, but his charisma is intact! I think this one is worth seeing on the big screen, Cindy!

  6. Good to know about the coarse language. Great review Ruth! You made a real case for it, I’ll see it eventually simply for Ruth Wilson’s voice. Love her. Cheers. :)

    • Are you not a fan of coarse language either? Yeah I’m not either but these days it’s rare to find films without foul language. This one is still tolerable to me though. Ahah, well have you seen Jane Eyre, BBC 2006 version? If you love Wilson, you have to rent that one.

      • Yup I sure have and of course Luther.

        I guess the foul language really depends: is it a well placed word or a mouthful of never ending crassness? It’s hard to concentrate on the dialogue when it’s dressed in a distracting way. Some find it funny and a riot, it’s just not for me.

  7. That’s a good spoiler free review Ruth, I don’t think I can review this movie without giving away some “plot” points. I agree on a many of the things you said, particularly the cinematography, performance and direction. I mean Steven Knight’s last film was Redemption and it starred Jason Stratham so this one is an automatic upgrade but Redemption wasn’t that bad and Stratham really tried hard to be a serious actor in that one.

    Personally I think this one would’ve worked better as short movie, 40 minutes or shorter and I think it could’ve the best shorts ever. But at close to an hour and a half, I wanted some kind of a payoff or an actual “plot”.

    Hardy proved himself to be a great performer and hopefully next summer, he’ll become a bigger star with his first big budget starring role in Mad Max. I always liked him as actor but was never sold on him as a leading man. Now I’m convince he can play John Kelly in Without Remorse, assuming that project is still happening.

    • Hi Ted! It was challenging not to talk about the plot but I really think it’s crucial NOT to spoil this movie for people. I think it could’ve been a tad shorter but overall I think Knight and Hardy did a marvelous job. I actually think there IS a plot, it just wasn’t the typical stuff in most action thrillers, which I mentioned in the review, and that’s what made it refreshing.

      I knew Hardy has that leading man quality even when I saw him in a brief role in Inception. He’s far more charismatic than even Leo, and he doesn’t scream ‘movie star’ either which I generally don’t like. He’s one busy guy now, very excited about Mad Max!

  8. Hi, Ruth:

    Intriguing critique. Mr. Hardy has developed the chops to attempt and pull off a one man show.

    He was frighteningly brutish, licentious and probably in psychotic in ITV’s The Take mini series. And wasn’t bad as the oldest, most indestructible Bondourant brother in Lawless .

  9. Glad you liked this one Ruth. Agree with you that Hardy certainly has the charisma to pull this one off. I liked that the plot was actually quite simple and believable. It’s very well written and left me wanting to see more from these characters when the credits closed. Definitely one I will add to the collection when it’ released on DVD.

    • Hi Natalie! I knew this would be good but I was still very impressed w/ Hardy and the pretty tight script by Knight. Yeah nice to see believable and relatable character for a change. I don’t know if I’ll buy the film tho, maybe if it had been Toby Stephens instead of Hardy I might, he’s an actor I think would do this role justice too.

  10. Top review Ruth and so glad you liked it! I thought it was fantastic and I was so impressed how tense they made it considering pretty much nothing happens. It’s almost a thriller but then nothing like one at all! Hardy is fantastic, even though his accent seems a little dodgy. Definitely one to watch knowing as little about it as possible.

  11. Terrific review, Ruth. Ever since I saw the trailer for this I’ve been keen to hear if the “man in a box” routine works this time out. Sounds like it does!! Tom Hardy will become a superstar A-lister if he keeps choosing his projects correctly.

    • I think the key to a “man in a box” subgenre is the charisma of the actor and the sharpness of the script. This movie has both. Yeah Hardy is a fine actor, no doubt he has a bright career ahead of him!

    • Oh I LOVE Hardy, he’s my fave character in the ENTIRE Inception, wish he had been the lead instead of Leo (I’m so bored of him now). Have you seen Rocknrolla?? Young Hardy is sooo adorable and he’s in love w/ my former crush Gerry Butler, it’s a hoot!

      • Ummm hello of course I saw Rocknrolla… Handsome Bob. Oh yes so handsome. He was in that really dumb movie This Means War, but boy was he gorgeous in that one. Ughh…. Gerard is one of my faves too!!! He is so hot and that accent I would die!

        • OMG, I hated This Means War but I saw it on a plane ONLY for Hardy. He made even Chris Pine look plain. You love Gerry too? Well he’s my former crush, I was in love w/ him for like 6 years! Even tracked him down to TIFF where I met him. But now he’s gone too Hollywood & his career choices are so daft! :(

          • Yes I hate it too but every time they played it on HBO I would watch it for him. He’s one that my husband actually really loves all his movies, so I get lots of changes to ogle him. Crushing hard, he is on my top 3. Gerard good lord there is something about him, he has that cocky swagger that is hot, total opposite of Toby. Yes he is very Hollywood now. :(

            • Ahah, yep that’s exactly what made me fall for GB. His swagger and undeniable sex appeal. I mean I still watch Lara Croft 2 just for him! I still wish he’d turn his career around and do something w/ substance for a change, he seems to give up when Machine Gun Preacher tanked. Now he seems to only go for the big, silly action flicks!

              He should learn from Tom Hardy in balancing the big & small movies, funny how in Rocknrolla, GB was the big shot but now Hardy is more famous and a critical darling, too.

              • Yeah I heard an interview with him he was really excited for all the work he put into Machine Gun Preacher and you are right maybe he is a little disheartened by the fact that no one saw it. lol. Yes now he just makes corny movies. Oh GB!

                Yup Hardy does it right and he has the ability to change up his looks kind of like Christian Bale. Oh gosh look at us fan girling!

                • Yeah, well I think the studio dropped the movie so it wasn’t marketed properly. No wonder it flopped! It was a great role for him and he was very good as Childers, I even thought it was award-worthy. I wish he didn’t give up so easily tho, I mean there are tons of projects that actors like Toby did that failed but he still pressed on doing what he loves doing instead of just pursuing the fame & fortune, y’know. That’s what made me respect Toby so much, he went against the grain but then again he saw acting as a job and passion, not for the glamor.

                  Oh right, Bale is another actor I always love, in fact I bought The New World for just 20 min of Bale as John Rolfe ;)

                  • Oh ok! Yeah I think you are right it was out for like a hot minute and that’s about it. He was so proud of his role, oh poor Gerard we will comfort you! Toby is KING!!!

                    Did you like that New World movie?

                    • Hey sorry I was off my computer most of the weekend. Yeah, I like The New World, but my fave part is the last 20+ min w/ Bale ;)

  12. Had to stop back in after watching this, and I pretty much agree with everything you said, Ruth. It’s amazing how much Locke’s life changed just because of one decision. I’ll give him props for sticking with it, even though it was ultimately ill-advised.

    Great movie, and what a performance from Tom Hardy.

    • Hi Eric! Glad we’re eye to eye on this one, it’s really quite a film isn’t it? I like the moral dilemma Locke faced and emotional roller coaster he took us along. I do think Locke wanted to do the right thing, it’s just how he went about it that is questionable.

  13. Nice review Ruth. I must say that even though your review embraces the merits and strengths of the film, I can’t say that I’m still completely convinced as to whether I should give this one a try or not for the time being. The thing is that when I first saw the trailer it was as if I was watching a repetition of the awful “Buried” with Ryan Reynolds in the starring role. As that film, it’s a one-man show with a single guy dealing against insurmountable odds and a cell phone as his only connection to the world around him. This is not to say that Reynolds is in the same category as Hardy as an actor, but the memories are still fresh and I just can’t see how a film as minimal as Locke seems to be can remain interesting through 85 minutes.

    Then again, there was Cast Away, which was actually at its best when Tom Hanks was by himself on the island…

    • Hi Niels. Well, I haven’t seen Buried but Hardy is a thousand times more charismatic than Reynolds IMO so I didn’t find the film to be boring or repetitive.

  14. Oh, I’m dying to see this one! I love films that largely focus on one character for the entire movie. Knight and Hardy are usually great, so I’m looking forward to it.

  15. Pingback: » Movie Review – Locke Fernby Films

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