Tom Hardy, a hands free kit and a 90 minute real-time drive to London. Welcome to Locke.
I've often laid in bed at night, pondering what Abbas Kiarostami's Ten would have been like if instead of actress Mania Akbari driving around Tehran and addressing the inequalities rife in Iranian society, we had a bearded Tom Hardy doing a Richard Burton Welsh drawl and unleashing his ire at Irish concrete farmers down the hands free.
Steven Knight's Locke just about fulfils its remit as a movie, no thanks to a stunning, casually restrained central performance from Tom Hardy as Ivan Locke, an ace building site foreman and family man who has to travel to London to attend to a sorry little accident. A pure dialogue piece that comes across as a stage play transposed directly to the big screen, the film consists entirely of Hardy coolly traversing conversation strands and attempting to preserve his crumbling marriage and job in the space of an eventful 90 minute evening jaunt.
The dramatic juggling makes Locke feel like a concept episode of Mission: Impossible, in which Hardy's steely protagonist — a "good man" by all accounts who's being severely punished for dropping the ball just this one time — goes to insane lengths to preserve his dignity and self-respect at the expense of just about everything else. In those rare moments where he hasn't got someone on the line, he barks obscenities at an unseen vision of his abusive father in the back seat, which are by far the film's weakest element, suggesting that Knight couldn't rustle up a more subtle way to announce Locke's tragic childhood.
Other than that, the film's concept doesn't get in the way of the central war of words, which, alongside the recent Danish film, A Hijacking, will go down as one of the better works about the psychological nuances of electronic communication. In relation to the concrete-based strand of the story, Knight takes the opportunity to append a neat political dimension to the machinations, as the virtuous Locke is utterly unruffled at the prospect of roping in cash-in-hand immigrant labour to finish the job.
More generally, Locke appears to be about the idea of diplomacy and that to get our own way in complex and heated debates, it's sometimes better to grab for a series of tiny wins rather than one gigantic one. It's something of a miracle that Knight manages to protract the material to feature length, though that's more down to Hardy's powerhouse presence as opposed to repetitious lattice of lens-flared motorway lights which comes across as nothing more than pretty filler.