Movie Review: “Locke” – A Powerfully Driven One-Man Show

Written by Leo Panasyuk June 14, 2014


Between his strikingly strong performance in Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Bronson” and his impressive turn in mainstream blockbusters such as “Inception” and “The Dark Knight Rises,” Hardy is an acting force to be reckoned with. Steven Knight (writer of “Eastern Promises”) writes and directs this uniquely interesting feature about a man, a car, and a phone and in the span of 85 minutes, offers us a window into the life of Ivan Locke (Hardy), a man whose carefully-constructed life unravels before his – and our – eyes and descends into a state of potential jeopardy.

One Man, One Car, One Destination

Hardy’s turn as the calm, collected, yet worrisome Locke is a welcome change from his more grandiose and imposing roles (Bronson and Bane come to mind) and though the circumstances of Locke’s situation are enough to put immense pressure on any one of us in reality, Hardy portrays a man who is able to simply keep calm and carry on. The film, from beginning to end, follows Locke on a drive from a construction site in Birmingham to London and is populated with only a small handful of characters – most of whom are never seen, only heard. The film is composed of a series of phone calls Locke makes and takes while driving and as the film progresses, these calls begin to become more and more dramatic, as he must balance not only his stressful work life, but also his turbulent personal life. Yet from start to finish, Hardy’s character is utterly flawless in his interactions with his wife, son, boss, and colleagues as he tries to not only control his own chaos, but theirs as well.

Locke's inner turmoil and anxiety are complemented by the isolation he finds himself in.

Locke’s inner turmoil and anxiety are complemented by the isolation he finds himself in.

This is Not “Gravity,” Though There’s Much Gravitas

The film is very reminiscent of Alfonso Cuaron’s “Gravity,” in which most of the action takes place in a single space and with a single character; we are with Hardy from the moment the film opens to the moment its closing credits commence. It may seem like a boring concept to only feature one on-screen character and never cut away from him, but the film expertly uses editing and music to convey the chaos in the predicament Locke finds himself in, and the narrative never misses a beat. I will not spoil what this predicament is, nor his motivations for resolving it as he chooses to, but I will attest to the fact that it acts only to punctuate Locke as a believably-human character and though we only know him for a short amount of time, it’s a resolution we anxiously anticipate.

If I were to find one fault in “Locke” it would be that the ending is a sudden (albeit satisfactory) one. It’s predictable only because given the audience’s knowledge of Locke’s situation, you want it to happen. The issue arises in the fact that it happens, and then it’s done and over with – no falling action or epilogue-like scene to neatly wrap things up. However, the best way to describe the ending in relation to the film is that it’s like the parable of life: it’s not the journey, but the destination.

Hardy maintains a strict, stern face throughout the film and not once does it get annoying or boring.

Hardy maintains a strict, stern face throughout the film and not once does it get annoying or boring.


Steven Knight’s “Locke” is a powerfully engaging one-man-show whose structure is simple yet intriguing. Tom Hardy offers one of the best performances I’ve seen from an actor in recent memory and solidifies my opinion that films need more actors with his talent and acting range. Though you only hear the voices of his supporting cast, their individual emotions to Locke’s situation are so powerfully and effectively conveyed through their intonations and speeches that you can actually picture them sitting in the car with him. After seeing Hardy portray the villainous, hulking Bane, it’s good to see him in a more human, relatable role – one that very easily could be any one of us.

My Rating: 9/10


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About Leo Panasyuk

A fan of all things film, Leo never really lets himself get tied down to one specific genre. He's always interested in watching new and old films and especially loves the IMAX format. When he's not choosing which movie to watch next, he's studying Film and English at Western University.

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