In Steven Knight’s second feature as writer-director, Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) drives alone from Birmingham to Croydon. For the 85 minute running time he is the only character to appear on screen. He makes a series of phone calls. Half of them are about concrete. The result is one of the most compelling British thrillers of the year.
Steven Knight's directorial debut was last year's disappointing Jason Statham vehicle Hummingbird, but he is best known for penning Stephen Frears' Dirty Pretty Things (for which he received an Oscar nomination) and David Cronenberg's Eastern Promises. He also, interestingly, helped create the television quiz show Who Wants To Be A Millionaire.
Talking at a recent screening of the film, he said he pitched Locke to producer Paul Webster (Atonement, The Motorcycle Diaries) by saying: "I want to do something quite different, in a confined space, about a guy whose life changes during the course of one car journey. And we never leave the car." And that is exactly how the film plays out. The idea is hugely ambitious, but the result is extraordinary.
Crucial to Locke's success is one of the performances of Tom Hardy's career. Ivan Locke is the manager of a building site. The evening before the crucial climax of the biggest build of his career, he makes a decision that will see his world crumble around him. At the start of the film he is a devoted worker and beloved family man. By the end, everything he knows has been thrown into chaos.
Hardy plays Locke with a pointless, but perfectly executed welsh accent. He is mesmerizing to watch as he makes phone calls to his boss, colleague, wife and two young boys. He is a man of principle, determined to do the right thing, trying to weather a growing storm as he unburdens his damaged conscience.
He is helped by a brilliant voice cast that includes Luther's Ruth Wilson, Sherlock's Andrew Scott, the wonderful Olivia Coleman and youngsters Tom Holland (The Impossible) and Bill Milner (Son of Rambow). Meanwhile Knight sets Locke during the night, allowing reflections of street lights to play across the car's windscreen, meaning the film never becomes visually dull.
The only misstep is the central character's occasional conversations with his imagined dead father in the back seat, perhaps included to give the film more drama. This was not necessary. Locke is a riveting watch, a daring idea almost seamlessly executed. The result: a film that surprises you.
RATING: FOUR OUT OF FIVE STARS
Locke is out this Friday (April 18)