Sundance '14 Review - Tom Hardy's LOCKE

Written and Directed by Steven Knight

Starring: Tom Hardy, Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, Tom Holland, and Bill Milner

Synopsis: On the eve of the biggest challenge of his career, Ivan Locke receives a phone call that sets in motion a series of events that will unravel his family, job, and soul.

Story and Direction:

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a man who has chosen to face his destiny, and he knows it is going to cost him a lot. And he is totally on the verge of losing it the entire movie. He is an astoundingly conscientious man, a well-respected construction director and family man who has earned the admiration of everyone who knows him. And he spends the movie blowing all that up and trying to build something new and worthy out of the mess.

We spend the entire movie in Hardy’s car, but the cinematography and editing keep things interesting. We basically only see what you can see from the front seat of a car, so headlights, streetlights, other cars, the rearview mirror, the dashboard and navigation system, and his bluetooth phone display, which is in constant use. Plus, of course, Hardy. There are a lot of crossfades, the streetlights and headlights vary in color beautifully, and while the scenery is a bit monotonous, it is never boring.

Wright also does a fantastic job of building tension by doling out the information piece by piece, phone call by phone call. Then once we know the situation, he does a great job of keeping us guessing. Is his work going to go to hell? How’s his family going to take it? Can he deal with the latest problem? Will he turn back? Even though we’re just riding in a car with Hardy, there are several storylines spinning out from the phone calls, and each one is engaging. 


It is lucky that Hardy is maybe the most charismatic actor currently working, so he holds your attention. And he’s playing fairly extreme distress and anxiety, which isn’t anything I’ve seen from him before. He kills it. He isn’t over the top–he is very, very controlled. He is precise and meticulous and gentle. His projection of calm reassurance rarely breaks, and almost never when he is interacting with another character. This is a bravura performance, maybe the best of his career. He manages to get the audience on his side right away, and somehow keeps them on his side through all of his problems, which, it should be noted, are entirely of his own making. 

Hardy will get all of the attention for this, but he gets a major assist from his costars, who deserve major accolades for building convincing characters using no tools but their voices. Of particular note is Andrew Scott, who provides most of the movie’s laughs as Locke's in-way-over-his-head assistant. Ruth Wilson and Olivia Coleman are also in fine form as the two people most affected by Locke’s lapse in judgment.

Similar to:

Buried, but not nearly as claustrophobic.

Chances You’ll See It in Theaters:

This isn’t a movie with mainstream appeal, but Hardy is big enough (and good enough) that it should see a limited release. Look for it at your local art house theater.