A man talks on the phone in a car for an hour and a half. (What? That’s what happens!)
Steven Knight, 2014
Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a construction site manager, a husband and father of two, who receives a phone call that causes him to drive away from his construction site one night with no intention of returning. Despite the fact that a historic concrete pour is set to happen the next morning, Ivan is determined to do what he thinks is the right thing to fix a mistake from his past. He must decide what’s most important to him, as it becomes harder and harder to keep moving forward. Each phone call to every person shakes the foundation of his seemingly idyllic life, from wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) and their sons to his co-worker, the increasingly flustered Donal (Andrew Scott). Ivan reveals an unhappy relationship with his now-deceased father in between phone calls. The entire film is set in real time during the drive.
This is a taut little one-man show, with Tom Hardy putting in a riveting performance. Speaking in a Welsh accent, the film’s entire scope plays out on his face. The actors lending their voices to the phone calls do a good job too, but this is Hardy’s film. I was expecting to have a few moments of boredom, but the quick run time and tight script ensured that I didn’t lose interest the way that I expected to. I didn’t find Locke as sympathetic a lead as he was perhaps intended to be – he has some strange ideas about right and wrong, and some of his moments of explosive anger (perfectly contrasted with his usually calm demeanor when talking through even the most stressful of moments) proved that under the surface there was a different kind of man. The characterisation of the two female characters also leaves a lot to be desired; neither comes off as particularly interesting in their own right (though they are only voices on the phone, the men are still given more to do). The structure of the film is clever, a slow burn that draws you into the emotion of the story.
The film looks surprisingly good, despite being entirely set in a car (a BMW X5, effectively product-placed – I came away wishing I had a car that nice). The image quality is good, and there are occasional breaks in the tension where we get a view of what’s going on outside the car. Nothing distracts from the story, but it makes for a film that isn’t terribly visually exciting. There were a few moments where I was confused, but they were few and far between; it was mostly easy enough to follow along with the story. You’ll learn more than you ever thought you needed to know about the business of concrete, about which Ivan is passionate. The intricate, mundane details of the story – the sports match that Ivan’s missing on TV at home, Donal’s cider, an urgent phone call to a man who’s rather insistently at an Indian restaurant – make the film seem all the more real. It’s a solid film for its genre, and worth seeing, even if only for Tom Hardy.
Locke on IMDb