Metaphorically imagine the Hollywood mainstream as the big box stores and the world of independent movies as the small businesses; the “ma and pop shops” if you will. Community works best when fans who want to see the best films get to market find out about and support both.
Some indie films released, even given their small distribution are so worthy of wider viewing film critics take up the challenge of finding it an audience. Generally, given the world of independent production, the subject is specialized and the story isn’t for everyone. With that in mind, Cinema Siren will start including reviews that fall in that category under “Indie Spotlight.”
You know our tagline…think of this as an extension of us “guiding film lovers through a sea of celluloid.”
Locke, the sophomore directorial effort by Oscar nominated screenwriter Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things) is one film worth this sort of attention. It repeatedly surprises the viewer. The cinematic experience is structured entirely around one man, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), and his journey, both literal and emotional, as he drives hours through the night.
This is not Ethan Hawk’s career crushing disaster of a movie, the symphony of screeching tires Getaway. Locke is the antithesis to a car chase action flick.
This is a movie about internal struggle, someone who is systematically tearing his life apart, intentionally, all to right one mistake. There is only one actor’s face, an altered-to-look-middle-aged Tom Hardy, we see in this movie.
The character is the construction manager and concrete expert in charge on the eve of the “biggest pour in European history” who has left his second in command alone at the project. He is also a family man who has left his wife and two teen sons who are expecting to share watching a big football match with them. He calls to inform them he won’t be coming home. He may never come home again.
The script and the rather demanding acting challenge is built on revealing the specifics through cell phone conversations, which unfold the story in real time.
What sounds like a dour, squirm-inducing hour and a half in the theater actually proves to be exciting and compelling. It is a masterful example of the best in professional partnership between a screenwriter-director and actor. Knight’s script uses a simple basis for his story of one night’s drive by car. That the lead character, who is struggling to make sense of right action while watching his well ordered life crumble, shares his name with the philosopher who believed all knowledge comes from experience and who examined identity and self, is no coincidence.
The complicated relationships are written with nuance and emotional sophistication, exposed through dialogue between the lead and the various voices, including his assistant Donal (Sherlock’s Andrew Scott), his wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) and another woman key to the story, Bethan (Olivia Colman). Director Knight said Hardy and the rest of the cast were filmed from start to finish together, with actual phone calls, and they chose the best from those performances. Do not underestimate these co-starring actors’ skills or the power of their voices. Though we never see them, their interactions are wholly believable and resonant, hooking the audience further into Locke’s experience, and their fluctuating relationships, sometimes on an almost visceral level.
It is no surprise Locke won Steven Knight the British Independent Film Award for best screenplay. Tom Hardy, too, was nominated as best actor for his work. Hardy trusts the words and his verbal interactions to carry the story, and therefore so does the audience. He also trusts his chosen subtleties to convey his emotions in each sigh, pause, or expression. As the lone human focus of the film, his intimacy with the camera invites the viewer to connect with the character and alternately root for him, judge him, and forgive him, just as he does himself. He is nothing short of riveting, proving he is one of the best actors working today. That cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos uses atmospheric light so artistically also adds significantly to the visual experience.
What makes the movie fascinating as well is the way morality, what is right or wrong, and what may be unforgivable, is represented. Ivan Locke, in his journey, is attempting an honesty and heroism of an everyday kind too many people shirk. Mistakes in life will always be made. What shows the measure of a man, is how they are faced, knowing the choice to face them may destroy a carefully crafted life.
In this world of entitlement and constant rationalization, taking responsibility and calling ourselves on our mistakes—choosing to stand and make a moral choice after an immoral or wrong one—there is nothing more personally and globally relevant, even political, than that subject, and an all too rare one represented on film.
But for one misstep relating to talks with his long dead and deadbeat dad, which take the viewer out of connectedness with Locke’s forward action, this is a movie that proves extraordinarily rewarding from start to finish.
Clearly Steven Knight, who has successfully written movies for other directors, was saving this beautifully structured script for himself, and deserves all the accolades he has thus far received in Europe. Tom Hardy could also use this film, should it find traction, for reaffirming his star status to the American viewing public, for more than just his flamboyant turn as Bane in Nolan’s Batman series.
Locke is part of what the film industry calls “specialty box office,” and has just opened into its widest release of 73 theaters nationwide, which means some of you will have to drive a distance to see it, others will have to wait for it to be on demand. Still, the time these movies have to succeed is very limited, so those of you who can, see it now! If Cinema Siren says a man driving in a car for an hour and a half talking on a cell phone is riveting, doesn’t that compel you to check it out and either thank her or call her a liar?
4.5 out of 5 stars