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The Battle of the Five Armies

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Star Ratings

Well good


Home Reviews LFF 2013 London Film Festival review: Locke
London Film Festival review: Locke Print E-mail
Written by Ivan Radford   
Friday, 18 October 2013 12:26
Director: Steven Knight
Cast: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth WIlson

Read our interview with Tom Hardy and Andrew Scott from the Locke premiere.

Nobody likes the M6. It’s long. It’s slow. It’s full of cars. It’s, well, the M6. For Ivan Locke (Hardy), though, it’s a direct line to sort his life out. His wife and kids are waiting at home to watch the England match. His company are expecting him to supervise the largest ever non-military deposit of concrete in Europe. But Ivan’s driving to London to be with Bethan (Colman), a woman who is having his baby.

That’s exactly what Locke consists of: Tom Hardy driving in a car for 90 minutes. If he stops, his world will come crashing down around him. It sounds like a low-budget version of Speed, but Locke is a slow ride.

Cycling through three phone calls on a loop, Knight’s smart script teases out plot details and character beats without accelerating out of control. How did he and Bethan meet? What will his company do? Will Bethan’s birth go without complications?

It's a premise that could easily end up running on fumes. It almost does in the second half, as Knight introduces a delusional argument with Ivan's father - shot, naturally, at a dutch tilt in the rear view mirror - but Locke fills up the tank with emotion rather than suspense.

The supporting ensemble literally phone it in, but in the best way possible: Ruth Wilson's stern vocals add believable anger to Ivan's cuckolded spouse, Olivia Colman's pleading cries dial up sympathy, while Andrew Scott as clueless cider-drinking co-worker Donal lightens the mood with several laughs. Tom Hardy, though, keeps you captivated: not an easy thing to do when it's just one guy on screen stuck in a BMW SUV for an hour and a half. He becomes increasingly desperate as he convinces himself he has events under control - an emotional journey that gives the actor a surprising amount to work with. Throughout, he maintains a Welsh accent you could swim in, all sexy rolling "r"s and gorgeous guttural vowels.

As Locke arrives at the film's pivotal turning point, you'll wish you could have Ivan's voice playing on answerphone for several hours more: a sign that the character has firmly driven into your affections. That's Steven Knight's real achievement. Not to make a compelling character study set solely inside a car - but to make a film so quietly gripping that you actually want to spend time on the M6.