It can be quite terrifying for an actor to be required to respond to no-one in close-up for lengthy extended takes – let alone for an entire films worth of content – but these requirements should also be relished by the actors worthy of capturing them. Tom Hardy does just that with aplomb in Locke, a stupendous performance of the most graceful manner for its detail and power, as he navigates the viewer through his emotional journey just as smoothly as he navigates down the M4. It’s something absolutely worthy of award recognition that never fails to compel as Hardy showcases his tremendous range.
Why is Ivan Locke unexpectedly travelling from Wales to London? As he is forced to reveal to his wife and co-workers at the worst possible occasions, he has impregnated a woman named Bethan (Olivia Coleman) in his lone one night stand, with tonight being the moment she goes into premature labour. This unfortunately coincides with the unprecedented biggest cement pour in European history at Ivan’s work the following morning that he is in charge of and with an arranged family gathering arranged for that night. Both of these he has chosen to miss to instead be there for this woman he admittedly doesn’t know anything about. As he travels down the M4, he has to simultaneously over the phone coach a co-worker Donal (Andrew Scott, who deserves many more cinematic opportunities after a faultless career in theatre thus far) through all the necessary complex dealings to make sure the pour goes successfully, explain to his boss Gareth (Ben Daniels) why he is neglecting his duties, calm down the lonely and afraid mother of his soon to be born child, and inform his wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) of ill deeds while delicately not informing his children of it.
Although unexpected, this has certainly been building up for the flawed but hugely sympathetic Locke. Not just since the discovery of the pregnancy, but from an upbringing of fatherly contempt and an innate desire to correct past wrongs. He’s worked hard to carve out an excellent reputation not just for himself but for the Locke family name, which he states will finally be in a good light starting from him. This is an inner super-objective with powerful psychological and cognitive movements that has flown into his consciousness this evening with enormous contradictory obstacles. The interesting and engaging thing about this is how Locke’s hierarchy of priorities are revealed, including the instant acceptance of the his inevitable firing. Doing the right thing, or what he considers to be the right thing, is valued higher than all the obligations he’s created. As his wife explains that one act of cheating is the difference between good and bad, he similarly scolds Donal about the vast difference between C5 and C6 cement when asked if they can be substituted.
In his reasoning he repeats to everyone that he’s “made a decision”, but he truly made it long ago – shaping the man he is and will inevitably continue to be. In discussion with his wife he seeks to know if he can turn round, semi-negate his decision and formulate a “rational next step”. But life is all about irreversible personal decisions and their consequences defining the road you take in life. He has chosen his and and as we pan across Haris Zambarloukos’ closing shots of London’s luminous nighttime streets, there’s many more there for him to turn into for his rational next step. This ravishing cinematography also highlights the use of field of depth which is at times symbolic of Locke’s frame of mind – trying to maintain focus but desperately needing a moments peace.
Upon initial perception, Locke feels like a film of less magnitude that it truly is – one actor, one setting, clocking in at less than 90 minutes. However the thoughtfulness and performances behind it is of great magnitude, reflective of the situations significance for Locke that results in a defining moment in his life. The one fault Knight makes is the delivery of Locke’s hallucinatory moments with his deceased father in the back seat, adding a welcome thread of drama via a mechanism that feels out of place to the rest of the narrative tone. But this hardly negates the moments of genuine heartache and fascination that Knight and Hardy have created in Locke, which comes with the highest of recommendations.