Why does it seem so risky? Because the film is, quite literally, Tom Hardy in a car for 80 minutes. The circumstances of the car ride are slowly revealed over the course of the film, but the action that takes place is always told from the perspective of Hardy on the phone as we have to envision what the hell is going on at the other end of the line. And to the credit of all the actors who have nothing to give but their voice to the part, they do a pretty fantastic job of conveying their respective predicaments with nothing but it.
You can see Locke’s co-worker slowly melting down and running around like a mad man, brought to life by Andrew Scott.
You can feel the respect and anger of his superior as he tries to figure out what to do with the insubordinate Locke who is the best foreman he ever had.
You can hear the heartbreak of the women and children in Locke’s life.
The voice cast is stupendous, but none of it would work without Hardy bringing it all together.
And boy does he ever. Hardy plays the titular Ivan Locke, and while his predicament might be a bit over dramatic Hardy makes you believe it. In its short runtime the script is able to give us a lot of motivation and back story for why Locke is doing what he is doing, even if it might not be the right decision, but it is his stubbornness that makes Locke as rich as a character as he is.
Knight finds a lot of tension in the film without ever resorting to any drama involving the car as you will find that the dynamics of a concrete foundation pour of a skyscraper can be incredibly compelling. Knight never lets the film rest and the action rarely stops for a minute once Locke makes that fateful turn before the title card. Knight makes the film as visually compelling as possible and the use of music, dissolves and that eerie feeling a drive on a highway at night are used to his full advantage. The film’s editing might be its strongest asset, with not a beat wasted in the necessarily(?) brisk runtime.
Locke’s contained setting may turn off some, but they would be missing out on a compelling and deep character study anchored by Tom Hardy. Hardy has rarely been better and Steven Knight firmly sets himself up as a director to watch going forward. If you are up for something different, Locke can deliver.
Locke is a B+