Friday, 25 April 2014

Locke [2014]

Like many a movie, I try and do a bit of prior research to validate my excitement and justify the minimal yet significant outlay of currency involved in movie theatre outings. As a fan of Tom Hardy (whom I first noticed in Sky One drama The Take) I was already sold, but through fear of the moment when I see a favoured actor in a substandard project (Johnny Depp is a prime example of this), identifying a bit more can never have hurt. As always, there is a decent indicator in the writing/direction and with Steven Knight (previously of Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises and Hummingbird) it seemed a safe bet it wouldn't trip, stumble and eventually fall, bloodying up its nose and hindering sight in one eye.

[SPOILER ALERT] If you haven't seen it yet, go away and come back in a bit.

Locke follows one man's car journey from work in Birmingham (I stand corrected if I missed the exact location) to a hospital in London playing telephone tennis with a collection of protagonists that go some way to creating layer upon layer of tension and conflict along the way. Tom Hardy, equipped with moustache-heavy-beardage, plays a solo role, in the driving seat of his BMW, controlling only his vehicle. His Welsh construction manager has made a big decision in an attempt to clean up a mess of his making at the expense of his career and family life.

You could be forgiven for thinking that the idea of a movie following one man on a middle England motorway might not be all that exciting. It is even very easy at the beginning to believe you are watching an artier, feature length episode of Top Gear, presented by someone infinitely more macho than its usual trio. It is swiftly obvious that neither is true. There is tension, discomfort and drama in spades; much as one might anticipate in a one man theatre performance, in a confined and highly intimate arena (which this kind of is).

The themes are universal; highly identifiable, especially to those of us for whom long journeys on Britain's 'm' roads pose an unwelcome addition to the schedule. As the walls of his life (and ultimately sanity) begin to crack and crumble in the passenger seats around him, his forced calmness becomes increasingly strained with the inevitable, wild outbursts. Who amongst us has not felt compelled to scream expletives while testing the durability of a vehicular interior as well as ones patience and selfless endeavour?

With a 'one drunken night' mistress having his baby on this very night, Ivan Locke journeys the 90 long minutes to 'do the right thing' by the tiny life he has co-created. In the process he has to let down his two sons, with whom he has arranged to watch a particular football match. Coupled with this is his need to confess his sin to his doting wife, breaking her heart and shattering his family unit. On the eve of the biggest build of his career, he decides to leave his post to manage domestic issues, handling business on the move at the cost of his job. A night upon which the stars align (or perhaps comets collide) putting his resilience firmly to the test.

As a being from Mars, I found it very easy to put myself hypothetically in Ivan's shoes. Not necessarily dealing with the exact circumstances, but there are times in life when a series of events will happen at the same time, calling upon management skills and potentially damage limitation. I found myself deliberating: 'What would I do?' If you ask yourself this question, you are successfully immersed. At various times, it would seem all too easy to pull the rip cord. The ground rushing toward you, do you trust in your decision and hope for a survivable landing? Or bail out at the next best opportunity? Ivan's decision is made for him. The invisible presence of his estranged and deceased father, the spark he needs to drive on. He will be there for his new child because his father was not there for him.

It is at times difficult to watch if you have any moral fibre or sensitive disposition. The brilliantly portrayed wife (Katrina) captured the essence of what it would mean to be sucker punched by infidelity. Her deafening silences, disbelief and breathlessness was so convincing it drove my cinema buddy (the better half) to grab for my hand and squeeze. As the narrative plays out, the in-car phone ringing and monotone 'call-waiting' notification begins to grate, contributing to the growing sense of frustration, perhaps more so to the viewer than to Locke himself. Though the family sized BMW is empty, you are in the car too; you are a part of the ride and the voices on the other end of the line join you, weathering Locke's 'thick skin'. Hardy's accent library is called upon and works to good effect, only occasionally distracting (a couple of times I thought he slipped into South African, once or twice reminded me, rather alarmingly, of Anthony Hopkins in Hannibal).

This is a very strong and gripping film that is at points difficult to watch. If you are an amorous male with little self control, perhaps don't go and watch this with your current wife/girlfriend; certainly not if you are the type of person that can't innocently pass through customs without looking guilty. It may touch a nerve. But generally this is great, very different to the norm and bit of a performance showcase from the Tom Hardy portfolio.


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