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Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a successful businessman dedicated to his loving wife and children. But tonight, everything will change, as a series of phone calls triggers a shocking chain of events - and unravels Ivan's seemingly perfect life over the course of a single, unforgettably intense car ride. (From the Lionsgate synopsis)

Note: The reason behind Locke's car ride is treated as a mystery in the film's marketing. The movie reveals why he is making this drive pretty early on, so I will be discussing it in the review. If you want to go in blind, I recommend stopping here.

When our story starts we wee Ivan Locke (Hardy) leaving a late night construction job. He hops in his car, drives up to a stop light and nods off with his left blinker flashing. A car horn behind him wakes him up, and in a sliding doors moment he switches his blinker right and takes off in a different direction. In this moment Locke (a nod to John Locke) makes a decision that will drastically alter the course of his life. In the next few minutes we learn that Locke, a proud family man and a highly successful construction foreman, had a weak moment in his past with a female coworker and on this night she is giving birth to his child. Locke has made the decision to be there for the child's birth and to be a part of his life. Over the course of the drive he will scramble to get his affairs in order with his family, comfort the distressed woman giving birth to his child, and his coworkers that he has left stranded the night before a landmark cement pour.

What's fascinating about Locke is the minimalist approach. If you haven't seen the marketing, this entire movie is Locke during this intense and emotional car ride. The approach to shooting the movie was unorthodox as well. It was filmed over eight nights. Each night the entire film was acted out in a single continuous take two times. The actors Tom Hardy speaks to over the car phone are actually calling into the car during the shooting process and conversing with Hardy in real time. It's a very unique and bold project, but what matters is the final result. The entire movie's success rests on the shoulders of Tom Hardy. Hardy is in a league of his own. It's hard to imagine the man you are looking at while watching Locke is also Bane, or the crazed individual in Nicolas Winding Refn's Bronson. Here Hardy is inhabiting the role of an everyman trying to make the best of a bad situation, and he is wholly convincing and engaging over the lean 84 minute runtime.

During the drive Locke's rationality is put to the test as he tries to maintain control over a family and a job that are escaping his grasp. Hardy makes Locke easy to sympathize with. Even though he clearly made a mistake you want to see him make it work, and that is what makes this taut experience so compelling. The screenplay isn't without its stumbles. There are some segments in between phone calls where Locke talks to himself, addressing his dead father who abandoned him as a baby. These bits are meant to give us motivation as to why Locke is making his choice, but it's all a bit much. He goes from a calm, collected man to a seething child with abandonment issues at the drop of a hat. A better script would work his past dramas into his phone conversations instead of these awkwardly placed monologues that threaten Locke's sympathetic qualities. Thankfully these scenes are few and far between, and everything else works so effortlessly that they don't get a chance to drag the movie down.



Locke was shot on the Red Epic digital camera system. The whole thing takes place at night time through interior and exterior shots of the car. By its very nature it doesn't make good reference material, but the 1080p transfer here from Lionsgate does look good. Cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos constantly uses reflections and superimposed images to create a hypnotic effect. It looks good and subtly draws you into Locke's dreary mindset. That said, all of these reflective surfaces and layered images don't make for a particular sharp picture. The look is right for the movie, but you aren't going to see an astounding amount of detail anywhere in this movie. In a film like this, compression artefacts will usually be a big concern. Every shot has dark areas of the picture and dim lights bleeding into that darkness, which usually lends itself to some ugly banding. Fortunately that is rarely the case here, as the 84 minute movie has been given a sufficient bitrate.


As with the video, this minimalist filmmaking approach doesn't require a sophisticated audio track. It's a one-man chamber piece on wheels, and the lack of variety is reflected in the sound mix. That said, this track almost constantly has the ambient noise of cars passing by or the low, steady rumble of Locke's car travelling on the road. There is some subtle directionality to the passing vehicles; particularly in a couple of scenes where police cars with sirens pass by. The phone calls that Locke takes from the dashboard of his car sound like they belong in the scene. The voices are appropriately integrated into the mix and don't just awkwardly float over everything else. The score from Dickon Hinchliffe is very unassuming and appropriately minimal, only occasionally swelling up with Locke's temper and determination. This track won't give your audio system a workout but it gets the job done considering the material.



The small offering of special features begins with the Audio Commentary with Director Steven Knight. Knight is a very calm and professional commentator and he gives some truly awesome trivia about the movie and the unusual shooting schedule. He also offers some symbolic insights that I didn't glean from my initial viewing of the movie. There are some good stretches of time where Knight is not making any comments, but when he does talk he has something interesting to say. The only other extra is Ordinary Unravelling: Making Locke (HD, 09:37). This a quick but informative behind the scenes featurette that features some interviews with Knight, Hardy, and others. You get to see some of the recording process that took place with the actors who speak to Locke over the phone throughout the film. You get to see the neat car setup they used to film on highways. There's also some talk about how Tom Hardy got involved with the project and how he prepared for the role.



Don't be turned off by the single setting, one-man show nature of Locke. This is an absorbing and thoughtful movie that never struggled to engage me during its short runtime. Tom Hardy gives a great, subtle performance that really showcases his range. He carries the story with ease. The minimalist style doesn't necessitate an HD presentation, but this Blu-ray disc from Lionsgate looks and sounds good. Extras are small in number but worth a look.

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.