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#728 - Locke
Steven Wright, 2013

A construction worker goes on a road trip to attend the birth of his illegitimate child and must field phone calls from his family and business associates in the process.

Being the directorial debut of screenwriter Steven Knight, Locke is a minimalist film that is definitely dependent on its script above all else. Tom Hardy plays the eponymous character, a family man and reputable construction worker who is about to embark on the biggest project of his career. Instead of going home to watch the football with his family, Locke instead starts driving to London. He soon reveals the reason why; several months previously, he had a drunken one-night-stand with a lonely colleague that resulted in her becoming pregnant. Now that she's gone into premature labour, he intends to drive to the hospital in order to be there for her as she has the baby. Naturally, this decision throws both his work life and home life into chaos as this news not only shocks his wife but his sudden decision to make such a long trip definitely interferes with his work commitments the following day. As a result, Locke becomes a virtual one-man play as it consists of Hardy driving non-stop and fielding dozens of phone calls about his many problems over the course of the film's extremely lean running time.

Hardy has already demonstrated how well he can carry a film on his lonesome with his break-out performance in prison drama Bronson; his ability to carry a film is definitely pushed to the limit as he is the only person who appears on-screen in the whole film. While Locke's clipped Welsh accent can definitely be added to Hardy's growing collection of questionable vocal affectations, it does little to distract from the tranquil fury that underlines almost every conversation he does have, whether it's calmly discussing the finer details of pouring concrete or delivering angry soliloquies targeted at his long-absent father. Though he spends much of the film trying to talk in an incredibly controlled manner, this does nothing to make his infrequent outbursts less effective. The collection of actors required to deliver vocal performances over the phone includes some familiar names, most notably Andrew Scott as Locke's alcoholic subordinate and Olivia Colman as the expectant mother who mistakes Locke's stubbornly honourable intentions for genuine romantic attachment. Though none of them are ever glimpsed on-screen, they play off well against Hardy in a series of conversations that are by turns naturalistic and artificial (though the alternating is not always by design).

Locke definitely works well enough as a character study and Hardy carries it off well, conveying all sorts of complicated emotions even as he alternates embraces or fights his various fates. The writing does occasionally get a little repetitive and contains some clunky lines - at one point Colman's character jokingly references Waiting for Godot, drawing a bit too much attention to the film's play-like minimalism. Even so, it's still a reasonably compelling little film that starts off with a number of shocking developments that will genuinely leave you wondering not just how Hardy will react but also how the film will fill out its running time. It's decent on a technical level, taking a confined yet constantly mobile setting and depicting it with just enough visual flair to not look dull but also not distract from the story proper. The same goes for the music, which is barely perceptible as it ebbs in the background and underscores the drama without drawing attention to itself. I'd be hard-pressed to say that the result is automatically a classic, but it's definitely an interesting enough watch that doesn't outstay its welcome.