BIFF14 - Locke - Cinema Review

'I did wonder why anyone who has ever spent that long in a car would think that the scenario is at all cinematic'

Of all of the good things about Locke, and there are plenty, it is ultimately very difficult to get away from the fact that director Steven Knight is asking you to spend ninety minutes in a car. Bradford is around ninety minutes from where I live, which meant that, after seeing Locke, I got into my car and drove for ninety minutes. Whilst the contents of my phone conversations during the journey were nowhere near as dramatic as Ivan Locke's (Tom Hardy) I did wonder why anyone who has ever spent that long in a car would think that the scenario is at all cinematic.

Of course, in a way, it doesn't really matter where Locke is. It is the contents of his calls that drive the Drama within the film. He could be stuck anywhere; in an airport terminal, on a beach, on a train; the only important thing for the plot to function is that he is heading somewhere, which simultaneously means he cannot be heading to at least two other places. Without that, the plot doesn't work, which justifies, if not artistically exonerates Knight's staging decision.

Having marooned his man, Kinght's self-penned script follows two real threads; one being the problems Locke is attempting to overcome, the other being the man's own fracturing mental state, revealed by way of several conversations he essentially has with himself. Within the problems he is facing, his problem relating to his current employment feels the most superfluous, used to distract and divert from the main crux of the matter, feeling like something that is very low stakes whenever it makes its way to the top of Locke's conversational agenda. Towards the end the effects of the events which befall Locke begin to become clear. You have to ask if what he has done has been worth it, considering what he has sacrificed and what has happened to others within the narrative. The conversations with himself tell you that Locke, at least, thinks that it has been, including his employment scenario, which ties into the character's historical concerns.

In the lead - and only - on-screen role, Hardy is superb. There are not many characters who are essentially 'needlessly' Welsh: Hollywood loves making things as simple as possible, for a start. Locke's lilting accent does add something to the rhythmic calm Hardy and his character attempt to portray. Locke deals in certainties ('I am driving. The traffic is fine. I will be there') and practicalities ('I want to move to a practical next step'). At times he seems cold, distant or distracted, but at others there is a warmth and humour to his voice. Rarely does he lose focus, except in the conversations which betray his psyche. The Welsh accent also forces Hardy to enunciate, something which he stumbled over in Lawless and - though this arguably wasn't his fault - The Dark Knight Rises.

The result of the equation that all that presents is something that, like most single location Thrillers, feels as though it has come into being more by way of an artistic challenge than because everyone thought it was genuinely a good idea. There's no great reason why we can't see Locke out of the car, other than Knight following his own self-imposed rules, rules that are even more artificial than the garden or common ones governing film production. Subtle sections that give respite to the film and audience have paid dividends to this genre in the past: the best contemporary example continues to be Phone Booth, which gives itself much more room to manoeuvre and is all the better for it. That film also manages tension, which Locke's fairly everyday plot never gets close to.

It's main worth then is as a showcase for Hardy as actor and Knight as director. The former shines and whilst the latter is hampered by his own rules, there is little doubt that Locke does manage some level of visual identity, if not always interest. I certainly did not see a motorway looking this pretty at any stage of my journey home.

The 20th Bradford International Film Festival ran from 27th March to 6th April 2014, with Widescreen Weekend taking place between 10th and 13th April. It is based at The National Media Museum, in the centre of Bradford.

By Sam Turner. Sam is editor of Film Intel, and can usually be found behind a keyboard with a cup of tea. He likes entertaining films and dislikes the other kind. He's on , Twitter and several places even he doesn't yet know about.

1 comment:

  1. Sounds interesting, and anything with Tom Hardy is worth a look at the moment, but I can't help but keep thinking of this as a gritty remake of Rob Brydon's TV comedy series "Marion & Geoff"...