NZIFF ‘Locke’, Review

A terrific start to the festival! Locke is a 2013 British film written and directed by Steven Knight, and starring Tom Hardy as Ivan Locke. Ivan is a workaholic concrete construction supervisor working on a large project in Birmingham. The movie begins with him leaving the building site in his car having received word from the pregnant woman he had a one night stand with the previous year has gone into labour in a London hospital. Ivan has been married for fifteen years and has two sons. He has been a faithful husband all but once — as his wife eventually makes clear; once is enough.

Locke entirely takes place in Ivan’s car as he drives from Birmingham to London, making and receiving phone calls via blutooth. Tom Hardy is the only person seen, with the entire supporting cast only present in voice form. The film is an examination of what it is for a successful, intelligent, and capable life to come utterly undone in a short space of time. Hardy is brilliant at conveying the introspective obsessiveness of Ivan Locke, his desperation to re-exert control over the events in progress, and his bitter emotional struggle with the ghost of his father — himself an unfaithful husband and absent parent.

There is much I could go into but better to be terse (since I am going to do a lot of these over the next few weeks). What really sticks in my mind and made a huge impression early on is Tim Hardy’s voice. No laconic south England accent like he had in Inception, nor a distorted garble like in The Dark Knight Rises (thank goodness). His voice strongly channels Sir Anthony Hopkins, albeit a much younger version; the accent is a rich Welsh. 

Locke is highly critically acclaimed with a rating of 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, any many critics have declared Hardy’s performance as a career best. This is a film that displays the curious ability of cinema that is so rarely indulged in — the ability to be micro. In contrast to live theatre it is the well populated province of film to be big, to cut dramatically from one scene to the next, to do the physically impossible and take audiences anywhere and everywhere. Locke is just a guy in a car driving on a motorway — and I was captivated for every moment. The slightest expression, the growing hollowness in Hardy’s eyes, it is all examined over the two hours of the film. Locke is dark, and intimate, and cold. But the effect is leaves behind is not one of desolate sorrow, but of hope. A new life has been born, Ivan’s sons still want him home despite his wife throwing him out, and the all important construction project beginning in the morning (that he has been coordinating from the car despite having been fired) will go ahead according to plan.

Ultimately I think the message is that life goes from managed stability to sheer chaos in a heartbeat, sometimes as an effect of the honest compulsion to do the right thing. Ivan could have left the emotionally rattled, and unstable Bethan to have her child alone in hospital while he went home to his waiting wife and sons. His family and his job would have remained intact. But his own father had abandoned him in a similar fashion only to return as a pathetic waste of a man when Ivan was in his twenties. He feels so compelled to do the right thing and take responsibility for his mistake that he will wreck his entire life. What an impressive morality play in a film so simple.

Without doubt this is a highlight of the festival, and if ever you have the chance to see it I strongly advise you do so.

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