As long as two hands our on the wheel, you can do whatever the hell you want.
Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) ends the day’s work, gets in his car, and takes a right-turn. From there on, with his Bluetooth handy, eyes on the road, and hands on the steering-wheel, Ivan Locke takes the trip of his life. Where he’s going isn’t quite clear, but just to make sure that everybody knows what he’s doing, he makes sure to call his family, his co-workers, his boss, and even special mystery friend that he may or may not be going to see. Either way, Ivan Locke is a man whose mind is dedicated to this road he is taking and where it’s going to take him; even feeling as if it is something of a “life-changer”. To push him even longer are the conversations he has with his dead father who he clearly despises, and may just be doing this trip to prove a point to him.
That may not sound like the most amazingly epic premise ever created in the history of film, but here’s the whole aspect behind it that only separates it from the rest of the pack of movies just like this, but even makes it better: It all takes place in this one car. That’s right: It’s just us, Tom Hardy, his fresh-to-death ride, and the Bluetooth he uses to make all sorts of calls, for a whole hour-and-a-half.
May sound sort of boring, I know, but there’s something about this movie that really grabs you right from the beginning, regardless of how much or how little you may know about it going in. For the sake of spoilers, I won’t say too much of what Ivan Locke discusses with all of these familiar-friends and co-workers on his car’s phone, but I will try to be as vague as possible, with small details here and there, just to give you enough of an idea of how cool this movie actually is. Because mainly, what separates Locke from all of those other, “trapped-in-one-spot”, is that it never really becomes to be about anything.
I mean, yeah, sure, there is an under-lining theme here about this man, Ivan Locke, and how he wants to make right with the mistakes he made, more specifically, on this one, make-or-break night of his life, but writer/director Steven Knight doesn’t really throw in any unnecessary curve-balls. Meaning, there’s no rampant serial killer on-the-loose and holding somebody on the other phone-line hostage, nor is there really any crime being committed whatsoever. What we have here is a simple tale of a guy, Ivan Locke to be exact, who has a job, a construction foreman to be exact, and dedicates this whole night, talking to others, helping them out, and even finding himself in some hostile situations. But never so hostile to where it seems like this movie is trying to be some sort of pulse-pounding, adrenaline-rushing thriller that we usually see.
In fact, what’s so neat about this movie is how Knight doesn’t really tell us to do much of anything when watching this movie. I bet he probably wants us to be thrilled and excited by what it is that we’re seeing and hearing, in real-time no less, but it’s not like he’s forcing us to sit in the car with this guy and practically be strapped to the back-seat while he makes all sorts of calls and tries to get his life in check. We don’t have to be there, in that movie theater, listening, watching, and feeling all sorts of things, but we want to, and I think that’s what works so well for this movie. It doesn’t make us do anything we don’t want to right from the start, but instead, just lets its story play-out in a natural, relatively calm and peaceful way, to where we know something bad is going to happen, but we don’t know how, why, when, or where.
All we know is that we’re with this guy, in his car, hearing and seeing his every which move.
And honestly, that’s all a good thriller needs to be. It doesn’t matter if it has a gimmick as tricky as this one does, and it sure as hell doesn’t matter what it’s about – as long as it’s reasonably tense, surprising and unpredictable, then we, as smart, thought-provoking and intelligent audience-members don’t need much else. Which makes it all the more surprising to see this movie released (for U.S., that is) during the very beginning of the summer season; a season in which just about everybody turns their brains off for mindless, mind-numbing idiotic crap that doesn’t last long in your mind, but at least gave you a good enough two-hours and allowed you to wine and dine with an extra large bottle of soda, and an even larger tub of butter-sloshed popcorn.
Not necessarily saying that there is anything wrong with that, because I’m definitely amongst that company of people who enjoy some dumb, but fun entertainment for as long as I can stay awake. But that still doesn’t take away the fact that it’s so refreshing to get a thriller as smart as this, that can trust its audience, and expect just about everyone who watches it to think for themselves, and not need every lesson, twist, turn, emotional-note handed down to them on a silver-platter with note cards. As human beings, we’re supposed to think and process, which is exactly what Locke allows us to do.
But another thing that Locke allows us to do is remember just what kind of a performer Tom Hardy truly is. It’s no surprise to anyone that has ever seen Bronson, Inception, Warrior, or heck, even the Dark Knight Rises, knows that Hardy can act, but we’ve never really seen him where it’s just him, all by himself, and left with not much else to do except sit-down, talk a lot and make plenty of faces. That description may actually make it seem like a bit of a goofy performance, but I can assure you, it’s very far from; in fact, it’s probably the best performance I’ve seen Hardy give since previously-mentioned Warrior, which was a powerful performance in its own right.
And yes, while most movies that feature their leading-roles in a one-man/woman-show type of format, usually have said performer giving a great role, there’s something to be said about Hardy and what he’s able to do with so little we know about Ivan Locke, and how he’s able to have us think we know everything about him by the end of the hour-and-a-half. For one, it’s strange to hear Hardy use a Welsh accent, but somehow, it totally works for this character. It doesn’t just work because he gets to say serious things and sound funny, but because of the way he actually calculates how he says every little statement. There’s a certain attention to energy and prowess that really shook me everytime he had something to say, to whichever person was on the receiving-end of his phone’s line.
I do realize that I sound awfully pretentious and all, but I’m serious, there’s something Hardy does so well with his voice and his accent that just works and has us glued to the screen right from as soon as we see Ivan Locke get in his car and take that right-turn. It also sort of helps that Locke himself is the kind of character we see every so often in a movie where he’s an absolute and total pro at his job, and does whatever he can to make sure that everything goes according to plan, even if he himself isn’t apart of that said plan any longer. And honestly, for a movie in which one of the main characters subplots is concrete-pouring, this totally does make a difference.
It should also be noted that for women who are going to want to see this movie so that they can get a nice shot of that hunk of man we all know as Tom Hardy, well, ladies, I hate to break it to you, but you’re going to be shite out of luck. Not only is Tom Hardy sitting the whole time, but he doesn’t look his best either. I get that probably doesn’t mean crap when compared to a natural, everyday human being, but still, when a movie-star allows for a pimple to remain so noticeable throughout a whole movie as Hardy’s does, then you have to give credit where credit is due. Now, it’s not the pimple itself that allows for Hardy to do great work as Ivan Locke, but it’s definitely one of the aspects that make this his best performance ever and has me even more excited for what he has coming up next.
Then again, I feel like I say that about every Tom Hardy movie I see. Even This Means War. Eck.
Consensus: Small, contained and tense, Locke doesn’t dive any deeper than it needs to, which is enough to make this a memorable watch, as well as to allow Tom Hardy to light the screen up with everything that he’s got, turning in his best performance to date.
8.5 / 10 = Matinee!!