‘Locke’ Review

Published 12 months ago by , Updated October 7th, 2014 at 1:27 am,

locke movie review tom hardy Locke Review

Locke has its flaws, but manages to satisfy as a minimalist work of social realism that is both dramatically-rich and often quite engaging.

In the film Locke, highly-respected Birmingham construction foreman Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is on the eve of what shall be the biggest – and, in turn, the most challenging – job of his career. However, upon finishing work the night before Ivan chooses to make the drive to London, in order to be alongside Bethan (Olivia Colman), a woman with whom Ivan had a one-night stand – and who is now preparing to give birth to his child earlier than expected. Over the course of the drive to the hospital, Locke must not only break the news to his wife, Katrina (Ruth Wilson), but also ensure that the impending major construction project goes to plan. But will he be able to save either his job or his marriage, in the process?

Locke is as close to a pure exercise in minimalist filmmaking as they come; not only is Tom Hardy the only person shown onscreen (the other characters are only heard via speakerphone), but nearly the entirety of the film’s action is restricted to the interior of Locke’s car and shots of his vehicle driving on the highway. While the resulting movie is a somewhat heavy-handed piece of storytelling, this cinematic “experiment” is overall a successful one.

Writer/director Steven Knight’s scripts generally deal with social issues that concern the English working class (see: Dirty Pretty Things, Eastern Promises), but his screenplay for Locke takes a more personal approach to examining the struggles (and, in turn, the moral values) of the modern blue-collar professional – allowing the film to have a more subtle political subtext, compared to some of Knight’s previous work. Then again, here the dialogue has a bad habit of going overboard with the symbolism, often drawing on-the-nose parallels between Locke’s methodical techniques for keeping his affairs in order – both at work and in his home life, alike. Because of the film’s simplistic design, it’s harder to just overlook such writing defects (the same goes for the obvious plot conveniences).

tom hardy locke Locke Review

Tom Hardy in ‘Locke’

However, thanks to Tom Hardy’s performance, Locke retains the intended atmosphere of naturalism and emotional intensity throughout its running time, even when the film’s text and subtext threaten to become one and the same. Hardy, as he has now done many a time before, does excellent work here, brining subtle nuance and the right mix of intensity and composure necessary to make Locke a believable character, whether he’s imaging talking with his deceased father or jumping around ongoing conversations with real-living people. As such, in the moments when Locke does lose his cool, it feels earned and cathartic, rather than like dramatic show-boating.

Knight’s direction on Locke is solid, on the whole. The variety of shot choices made by him and the cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos (Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit) usually give rise to clean images that do not call unnecessary attention to themselves. Likewise, the editing by Justine Wright (The Iron Lady) links the visuals together in ways that both enhance the thematic substance and keep the film’s pace flowing and smooth. As far as cinematic one-man shows go, this is certainly one of the more consistently engaging and intense in recent memory.

Still, there are a handful of instances where Knight and his collaborators insert obvious visual metaphors, which stick out all the more because the rest of the proceedings are so grounded in their execution. All things considered, though, the composition and moments of visual Impressionism in Locke works – allowing Locke’s vehicle to succeed as the symbolic embodiment of the modern lifestyle (its conveniences and hectic nature alike).

locke movie tom hardy Locke Review

As mentioned before, Locke is foremost Hardy’s show, though the cast’s experienced character actors still manage to carve out enough room to leave an impression, simply with their vocal performances. Both Olivia Colman (Tyrannosaur) and Ruth Wilson (Luther) communicate the right amount of pathos through their voices to invite sympathy, as the women affected by Locke’s noble-minded, but certainly questionable actions. However, as far as the voice cast goes, the standout is definitely Andrew Scott (you likely know him as Moriarty on Sherlock), as the often flabbergasted Donal: a fellow who Locke is heavily dependent on, to make sure his big job doesn’t fall apart.

Locke has its flaws, but manages to satisfy as a minimalist work of social realism that is both dramatically-rich and often quite engaging – despite the film rarely venturing outside the confines of the title character’s modern-day automobile (and all the technical gadgety that comes with it). Even those moviegoers who aren’t generally fans of the single-setting format might want to give this one a look; you may end up enjoying the ride more than you would expect.



Locke runs 85 minutes long and is Rated R for language throughout. Now playing in a limited theatrical release.

Our Rating:

3.5 out of 5
(Very Good)

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  1. Wish this would get a wide release…..

  2. Found it quite engaging really…

  3. I put my money on Tom Hardy to be the next James Bond after Daniel Craig.

  4. Didn’t think i would like this. Was engrossed all the way through. Different but brilliant.

  5. Saw this a few months ago at the premiere in Birmingham, thought it was great and the shots used really highlighted Britain’s Second City.

    Also have to say, congrats to Olivia Colman on winning her Best Actress BAFTA last night for Broadchurch.

  6. Ask yourself these two questions first;

    “Do you got to movies to escape the world?”

    “Do you go to movies to engage in it?”

    If the answer is number two you will love this movie. Intense, Tom Hardy is an actor of the Age. I will follow him the way I did Matthew McConaughey and Ryan Gosling.

    • In the last scene, the bmw’s blinker is signaling a right turn. He actually turns left. Does this mean that he did not go to the hospital?

      • It was a roundabout.

  7. This was the worst movie I have ever seen its 85 minutes of my life I won’t get back I’m going to the movie store to demand my money back and the trailer made it seem like it was the best damn movie ever they need to be fired

  8. Movies like Gigli and Water World which are considered to be among the worst movies of all time at least have several actors who contribute significant parts to them. This is a guy driving down the road for over two hours discussing with fellow employees how incompetent they are to handle doing their jobs with him missing and how he messed up and is making it right.

    First off I realize a person can have a significant effect on the success or failure of a business but in this instance and for the job being done, surely someone should be competent enough to step in a do what needs to be done no matter how big the job is. For one if nobody can step up then why even have the business? What happens if Mr. Locke is not driving to see his illegitimate child be born but actually can not make it because he dies?

    With all this, why should we care that Mr. Locke is being honorable after having been totally ignorant and dishonorable in having an affair and getting some woman pregnant in a one a night stand? I could care less about how righteous he is being in doing the “right thing” after he did everything so wrong? If anything Mr Locke should have been going home to fix his marriage and be a father to the son he already had. If he wanted to be honorable than he could pay his child support for his love child and see the kid as needed throughout the child’s life. It is not like the mother was a woman he loved, she was a fling. Being there for the birth of her child is unfair to the family he already made a life with.

    Anyway, watching these dumb conversations over and over again on the phone with maybe four people while he is driving is as much fun as watching paint dry or people play golf or baseball on TV. BORING!!!!