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By Philip Martin

This article was published May 23, 2014 at 2:17 a.m.


Welsh construction manager Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is an ordinary man on a mission in Steven Knight’s remarkable chamber drama Locke.


90 Cast: Tom Hardy, with the voices of Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Ben Daniels, Tom Holland

Director: Steven Knight

Rating: R, for language

Running time: 85 minutes

Ivan Locke isn't a superhero, and maybe he isn't even extraordinary. We've all known people like him, and maybe we imagine ourselves a little like him. He is highly competent, honest and very engaged with his work.

He has also made a terrible mistake, and he understands he must own up to it.

To describe writer-director Steven Knight's Locke is inherently reductive. It's about a Welshman in a car, traveling from Birmingham to London, talking to various people on his Bluetooth-enabled mobile as he drives. The film takes place almost in real time -- the real journey would take about two hours, but Locke makes it in 85 minutes. Except for a brief preface when we watch a pair of boots exit a construction site and walk across a parking lot, the film takes place entirely inside a nicely appointed BMW X5 SUV (were it not already taken, Ride Along would be a good alternate title).

But this potentially claustrophobic experience is transformed into a rich emotional epic, one of the most satisfying and whole-feeling movies of the past few years, thanks to a thrilling if understated performance by Tom Hardy (the chameleonlike British actor best known for portraying Bane in the last Batman film), a taut, nervy script by Knight (who wrote Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises) and some dazzling visuals by cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos. Locke is a man on a reluctant but determined mission, driving straight into an uncertain future as the pieces of his old life fly apart.

He's about to commit professional suicide, as he's determined he can't be at the job site in the morning when the largest concrete pour (outside of military or nuclear sites) ever in Europe will go down. This is regrettable, for Locke worries about "his building" and he knows the subcontractor might try to substitute some C6 concrete for the specified C5 if he's not there to personally supervise. He's also missing out on time with his family, which might not exist in the same form after this fateful evening, but none of that can be helped. Locke must do what he must do. The right thing.

So Locke places and takes calls on his hands-free device, his luxury cockpit glowing orange, with abstract blues and sodium vapor yellows sliding across his windshield. He sorts things out, other problems arise. He calls his wife (Ruth Wilson, disembodied yet somehow still very real) and she greets him with a "Hi love, I've got sausages." Then he tells her he won't be home, and why, and says he wants to find a way to move forward ....

That does not go over well, and things aren't any easier when he tells his boss Gareth (Ben Daniels) -- we get a clue to the nature of their relationship when we see his number listed under "Bastard" in Locke's contacts. The big boys in Chicago will not be happy, they will likely fire Locke. To this, Locke has a succinct retort.

Yet, even after he's let go, by his wife and his employer, Locke strives to meet his obligations -- to the past and to the future. Locke can be a little grandiose and full of himself -- when his assistant (Andrew Scott) balks at running out at night, with a couple of ciders in him, to hire a gypsy crew to take care of some last-minute preparations, Locke goes off on him poetically: "You do it for the piece of sky we are stealing with our building. You do it for the air that will be displaced. And most of all, you do it for the ... concrete, because it is delicate as blood."

Locke, who speaks in a voice borrowed from Richard Burton, may or may not quite believe that, but we get the feeling he has steeled himself for this dark night, and that he has no choice but to complete this journey. He's stubborn, flawed but undeniably noble. He's not the sort of character who often appears in movies, especially not in our current cinema of excessive overtness. He's a real man -- only sometimes a hero.

MovieStyle on 05/23/2014

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