One man, one car, one cold, one highway, one night and many a dilemma to troubleshoot; all done with one tremendous actor. It all adds up in the cinematic universe.
In Locke, Tom Hardy is the titular Ivan Locke, a family-man construction worker specializing in a major concrete pouring in the morning and is about to endure the toughest and longest night of his life. This night has been coming for a long-time he has just putting it all off in favor of hoping everything will work itself out in the end. Well, unfortunately personal and professional problems never just ‘work themselves out’ by not paying attention to them. At the end of his shift one-night he must go head first into everything that has been up in the air for him recently. Thus begins our journey with Locke and his long, near real-time, drive to London to better a bad situation of his own doing.
The one-man-show movie gimmick has been trumped up before in the big name and budgeted blockbuster with I Am Legend to even small independent experiments like Buried and is a big risk for any filmmaker; concentrating on a single performer for the duration of a feature length movie requires so much from the actor every single second. Luckily Tom Hardy gets to show his considerable talents and charisma as a actor and is game for the challenge. First-time director long-time writer Steven Knight shows he has great instincts as a filmmaker by trusting an actor as capable as Hardy with the cinematic weight of the narrative. It is no gimmick here, the technique is used to convey just how many things are revolving around Locke and how he deals with them in different various insightful and resourceful methods. We never leave the car, even when people in his life call him on his bluetooth car synch, everything is conveyed through his cadence in voice and mannerisms of the solo actor on-screen.
Tom Hardy has showed promise and skill in many films in recent years with turns in Inception, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, The Dark Knight Rises and especially Warrior. However, he has never been more accomplished than here driving by himself on a long highway to a hopeful redemption. He is simply magnetic as we witness his life collapsing around him. Adopting a calming and reserved Welsh accent for the character, Hardy as Locke juggles several problems with his family, job and past. The highway’s traffic around him reflected and interlaced on his face, conveying the need for control and organization that the man possesses. He is put into several no-win situations; some he turns into positive others not-so-much nonetheless he maintains a sheer determination to fix the mounting issues in his life.
The best performance of the year thus far is as emotionally candid and affecting I’ve seen from any male performer in a long while. We don’t always side with Locke in the decisions that brought him to this point in his life, but we are with him in his troubleshooting due to his demeanor and attitude to fixing and/or finishing what he himself started. He never raises his voice or patronizes in anger at the people calling him no matter the severity of the issue, he only ever loses it when he is not on the line with somebody; he doesn’t allow displaying to others in his life the chaos battling within him. He maintains his composure, even with a bad cold which Hardy had during filming, at the most critical moments and moves forward to the best of his ability.
Movies that offer so much in terms of character where we are made to understand the entire spectrum of someone’s life, from work to family, are a rarity. Even more rare that it is done to such great effect with a single actor on-screen having no other actor to play off of. Writer/Directer Steven Knight makes another great interesting decision in the conception of the movie by having the actors that call Locke actually call in to Hardy in the car, it is not dubbed in during post-production. Furthermore, Hardy was not made aware beforehand which of the characters would call him next during some of the scenes, adding to conveying the resourcefulness nature of Locke and his ability to deal with things on the fly.
Locke is the best kind of character study, where we as audience both empathize and see the faults of a character’s actions. A one-man play that succeeds in thrilling a movie-going audience, with Tom Hardy giving it his all in his best role to date (there will be more to come, be assured of that). With any luck, this is the man’s jumping off point to awards recognition and many more leading vehicles (no pun intended).