It ought to be as dull as watching paint, or in this case concrete, dry – one man on screen for eighty-five minutes, talking into his car phone, mainly about pouring concrete. But this tour de force about how a man (Tom Hardy) risks losing everything most dear is utterly compelling, tragic and frequently hilarious.
Steven Knight | UK | 2014| 85 minutes | 15
At the beginning of the film, Ivan Locke leaves work at the end of the day and gets in his car. His wife and two teenage sons are waiting for him to get home to watch the football. The following dawn he’ll be responsible for the biggest job of his career, as a construction engineer overseeing the pouring of concrete foundations for a huge skyscraper, a job that requires incredible logistical planning and precision. But reliable, dependable family man and employee Locke isn’t going home, and he isn’t planning on being at the concrete pour the following dawn, his conscience tells him he needs to be somewhere else, to try to make amends for a past mistake.
The 85 minutes of the film unfold in real time as he sits in his car on the motorway talking on his car telephone. No other actor appears on screen, although we hear their side of the conversation too. To hire such a stellar cast as Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott and Ruth Wilson and then not to show even a glimpse of their faces was a bold move. Instead the camera barely moves from Tom Hardy’s face as he sits behind the wheel.
Remarkably the action was filmed inside a moving car, in real time over eight consecutive nights with the other actors phoning in live calls to the car phone from a hotel room. In this sense it is closer to a filmed piece of theatre than a conventional movie. The actors and crew filmed each night from 9pm until 4am and filmed the entire script sequentially each time. The final cut was pieced together from the sixteen versions that were filmed.
Though the film is in the tragic genre with Tom Hardy absolutely compelling as the central character, it is not all doom and gloom, there’s comedy too, especially in some of the conversations between Locke and his work colleague Donal (played by Andrew Scott, better known as Jim Moriarty in the BBC’s Sherlock). Hardy’s pitch perfect welsh accent was partly inspired by Richard Burton and a desire to create a character with gravitas who had an everyman quality without the inevitable class overtones in an English working class or middle class accent.
It’s a very linear piece of film making. Locke is heading both literally and figuratively towards his future and once he has set off there is no turning back. As a methodical engineer he seems gripped by a sense that if he tries hard enough and makes enough calls it will be possible to solve all the problems in his life, and it is no coincidence that he is called Locke (after John Locke the seventeenth century British enlightenment philosopher of rationality and individual rights). He is a profoundly ordinary man in many respects, dealing with a crisis entirely of his own making. Events such as those featured in the film will never make the headlines and yet the film shows both the tragedy and nobility in an ordinary life, and how an ordinary man can also be extraordinary. In an interview about the film, director Steven Knight says, “I think I was trying in a way to say that in each [car you pass on a motorway] there’s somebody being heroic or not heroic but they’re doing something…”
Weighted vote 88.6%