Sunday, September 7, 2014

LOCKE Is a Trumph for Tom Hardy


LOCKE Review:

- I knew Tom Hardy was good. But his work in LOCKE is next-level stuff. LOCKE is a film that could have been very gimmicky, and very hard to watch. But thanks to sharp writing, hypnotic direction, and an off-the-charts great performance from Hardy, it turns out that this is an absolute must-watch.

LOCKE takes place almost entirely inside the car of Ivan Locke - played by Hardy - as he drives down the M6 freeway in England. No other actors appear in the film. But we do hear many of Locke's conversations, conducted over his car's speaker phone. To say too much would be spoiling, but I will say that the plot of LOCKE may not be what you think. Locke isn't driving to save a hostage or stop a bomb from going off. But that's not to say that he doesn't have problems. As we learn over the course of the film, Locke is a good man who's messed up his life. And through an accident of bad timing and bad luck, a mistake that Ivan Locke made in his personal life is about to, potentially, cost him everything.

At first, there's a strange sort of disorientation that happens as the movie starts. We see Hardy as Locke leave his job at a cement farm, enter his car, and drive off into the night. As he drives, he struggles to maintain his composure as he makes desperate phone calls to family and colleagues. What's happening? Who is this guy, and what did he do? Who are the people he's talking to?

Writer/director Steven Knight masterfully unravels the mystery as the movie progresses. But even as we get caught up on Locke's situation, we become increasingly riveted by the question of how events will unfold. We get caught up in the web of Locke's life, and we are made to feel his palpable desperation right alongside him. Credit Knight with never letting the film's single setting limit his direction. He makes Locke's car a claustrophobic vessel that's one part prison and one part mobile command unit. And he imbues the film with a hypnotic sort of rhythm that leaves you hanging on every word, every phone call, every gloriously horrifying instance in which we hear "You Have a Call Waiting" drone over Locke's phone speaker, like some sort of digital car-crash pileup unfolding before us.

Credit also Tom Hardy, for making each moment of the film so captivating. Hardy plays Locke in a theatrical manner - in fact, there's a lot about the film that could lend itself to being a hell of a one-man stage play. But Hardy's acting here - reminding me almost of Daniel Day-Lewis in There Will Be Blood (with his confident affectation giving way to madness) - is just superlative. Seated and driving for the film's duration, Hardy acts with his voice and with his eyes. And man, does he ever run the gamut of emotions - steely determination, desperation, heartbreak, regret, love. Ivan Locke is a good guy, respected, hyper-competent at his job, and admired by his kids. And we see Hardy, as Locke, try his best to hold on to all of that, even as his world comes crashing down. It's an award-worthy performance.

Hardy's performance, coupled with sleek and mesmerizing visuals and a great score, gives the movie a gripping intensity.  This is a small and personal story, but somehow - despite that and despite the entire film taking place in a guy's car - Knight makes it feel big, theatrical, and in its own way, epic. The movie seems a film designed for our times - an era where communication is omnipresent, but not necessarily in a way that's empowering. Like Ivan Locke, we strive to be in control. But life is fragile, and it doesn't take much to topple our carefully-constructed realities. And so we find ourselves in the in-between, hoping for light at the end of the tunnel. LOCKE is about the moments between moments - about being stuck in traffic on the freeway of life. A great film, highly recommended.

My Grade: A-

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