Posted by Joel Copling on April 24, 2014

It might be a simplistic deduction based on the evidence, but writer/director Steven Knight's "Locke" boils down to a very simple truth: Ivan Locke is having a not-great evening. His day at work is done, and he's gotten into his car (from the inside and outside of which Knight and his audience proceed never to leave) to head home for the night--or so we immediately believe. It is very clear, however, as directly stated by him to wife Katrina (voice of Ruth Wilson), that he is not headed home. He has "made [his] decision," and Knight keeps us willingly at bay for what that decision will be, what prompted it, and what its ramifications are.

Tom Hardy plays Ivan in the type of one-man show that is dependent on this particularly talented actor's level of charisma, and it's a testament to his strengths as a performer than ninety minutes in his presence is an engrossing prospect. There is no "plot" here in the conventional definition of the word, but there are rises, crests, and dips over the course of this fateful drive, over which Ivan communicates with others through his car's Bluetooth device. You see, Ivan's messed up. Less than a year ago, he had a one-night stand with a co-worker named Bethan (voice of Olivia Colman). It has resulted in a child to whom he feels no personal sense of connection; he just feels that being there for the mother (who is almost a stranger to him) is the right thing to do--the best decision of a discomforting situation.

But he hasn't told Katrina yet. Oh, he will, and he does, and the reaction is a realistic one. She's furious. They have two kids (voices, ever-so-briefly, of Tom Holland and Bill Milner) of their own, and it's beyond her ability to let them see him anymore. Eddie's desperate to have Dad home to watch the game on the television; Ivan repeatedly promises (but also dodges) to listen to it on his radio. It's better like this, he reasons, likely to himself alone, because once this all clears up, once Bethan has the baby, he can come back, everything will be ok, and he and Eddie can have a grand, old time watching it again (Eddie even promises to act surprised at the more dramatic moments). For Katrina, it's not so black-and-white, and she spends a majority of the second half locked up in her room.

As if that wasn't enough, Ivan is the construction director for a company that is currently among the final stages of crafting a building of his design. This monument is a mammoth based on a pretty loaded description (It will cast a shadow a mile long in the fiercest sun). His bungling co-worker Donal (voice of Andrew Scott) makes a series of missteps in these final stages, and Ivan, repeating the mantra that he has it all worked out, talks him through the process. It's exposition, really, this hammering of details, conferring with a boss (voice of Ben Daniels) who, it must be said, is forced to fire him before the night is out, and figuring out of ways to get the building built.

It is insightful, though, into Ivan's carefully sculpted outlook on life. Hardy is somehow able to make this character a sympathetic one, despite his antagonistic attitude toward Bethan (Colman is particularly moving as an expectant mother going through literal labor pains), naive underestimation of Katrina's reaction to this whole situation (Wilson is devastating as the full scope of Ivan's actions shows itself), pained understanding of Gareth's bittersweet parting-of-the-ways (captured well through Daniels' brief voice work), and weary bemusement at Donal's continued shenanigans (Scott is highly amusing, especially when Donal gets highly intoxicated). This is all captured with stunning verisimilitude by Hardy, and the gimmick (Let us call it what it is) of a man simply driving holds weight. By the time Ivan utters a literal statement in a single sentence of the film's crumbling emotional core (cut nicely by a sweet notion that nevertheless contains a bitter middle in the form of a new life), "Locke" has rightly earned the manipulation.

Film Information

Tom Hardy (Ivan Locke).

Featuring the voices of Olivia Colman (Bethan), Ruth Wilson (Katrina), Andrew Scott (Donal), Ben Daniels (Gareth), Tom Holland (Eddie), Bill Milner (Sean), and Danny Webb (Cassidy).

Directed and written by Steven Knight.

Rated R (language throughout).

90 minutes.

Released in select cities on April 25, 2014.