Some of the most memorable conversations of my life took place in a car. In a car with other humans. I have also had a great conversations with myself and my imaginary friends, family members and ghosts. Haven’t we all? Perhaps there is something about when we are in motion which unlocks our ability to better process events and feelings. It soothes our kinetic needs and gets our nervous system in sync with our heart and mind. I don’t know – maybe its all a bunch of hooey, but LOCKE tries very hard to make us feel for, and empathize with, the man on a mission in his silver BMW. A man whose whole life appears to revolve around managing potential crises and pulling the puppet strings of the people and the world in which he finds himself. A world he clearly believes he is in control of. Like the Wizard of Oz in his booth, Ivan Locke, played by Tom Hardy, works hard to project that he’s figuring it out, that’s its ‘all good,’ workable. And it’s not going so well this night.
Ivan Locke makes the decision to veer from his traditional path both literally and metaphorically, as he leaves his construction job late one afternoon. He drives away from home, where he is expected and waited upon, and his big work project where he is critical to the success of a large concrete pour first thing in the morning. I now know that pouring concrete is far more nuanced than I had ever imagined. That counts for something in LOCKE. Our film is Locke; driving, talking – always talking – on his Bluetooth and trying like hell to manage the plates he has spinning. He is a man of reason, calm and measured almost to an infuriating degree, striving to manage a moral and emotional predicament with logic and rationality. LOCKE confronts big issues; What is the ‘right’ thing to do? How much control do we really have in our life or the lives of others? How do we mend our karmic legacy? What is the less painful of two difficult choices? Does any of that really matter to Ivan Locke? Honestly I didn’t see it. Locke is fundamentally unsympathetic, hard edged, and frankly not likeable. I could not connect to him as a parent, a spouse or any capacity, and given that he is all we see, even though he is fetching, that’s a major problem. Those circling him on the phone however are strong, moving and effective. Tom Hardy tries like hell to bring it, but his clean tidy tears are not enough. It is hard to be the sole provider in a film. It’s a one man show and you have to be the man to pull it off. I feel that Hardy has range and can act with believability and competence, but is he ready for this level of intensity and isolation in a role? Or perhaps the issues lie with the writing and/or direction? Steven Knight who wrote and directed LOCKE also wrote one of my favorite films EASTERN PROMISES, which has a beautifully balanced narrative full of emotion, brutal violence and plausible dialogue. LOCKE is his second directorial film effort and while I applaud his big hairy audacious goal, he bit off a bit more than he could chew with LOCKE.
LOCKE has a lot on its mind and the film wants to get you to think about it all. Deeply. Unfortunately it doesn’t move you to reflect, and it utterly lacks dramatic tension which is critical to a story of this kind. If there is no dramatic tension in a car alone with a man then there’s not much else but traffic. LOCKE has so much to say, and yet gives so little. Hardy is too measured, too even keeled especially in the moments where is is battling the demons from his past. I think back to the solo performance of Spalding Gray in SWIMMING TO CAMBODIA, how we stress with him, laugh with him and imagine taking massive quantities of drugs in Asia with him, all the while entranced by just one man in a checked shirt. If we cannot watch Ivan Locke scream, rage, sing, cry out or sloppily sob alone in the car, as we all do (come on admit it, I’ve seen you at the stoplight) then there is nothing really to see, except the great navigation system in a BMW.
Director – Steven Knight
Starring – Tom Hardy, [voices: Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Tom Holland]
85 minutes, Rated R
Movie Review Locke