“Locke”, starring Tom Hardy, is one of the most refreshingly original films I have seen in recent memory. Essentially a one-man show, the film chronicles a nearly real-time drive in which the main character, Locke, struggles to keep his life from falling apart over many phone calls. Set entirely inside his car, the audience is forced to remain pinned to Locke, resulting in a deep understanding of his character that feels special and rare. The premise surprisingly never feels like a gimmick, which stands as a tribute to the film’s phenomenal writing.
Tom Hardy is undeniably masterful in this role, as he convincingly takes the viewer through Locke’s heart-wrenching journey with finesse. While his demeanor often feels subdued and defeated, he manages to display a wide range of emotion through this potentially limiting medium. Most importantly, his response to each new phone call feels genuine and sincere, aided by the believability of some impeccably character-driven writing. Deeply philosophical, the script is full of conflicting interests and mixed motivations, constantly making the viewer question each of Locke’s answers and actions. He is portrayed as neither a virtuous or immoral character, but rather an authentically flawed man trying to do the best he can.
The cinematography deepens the feeling of intimacy necessitated by the confined setting, and it wisely takes time to linger in the silence between his phone calls. In these moments they favour intriguing double exposure shots of Locke’s face and the road on which he is driving – this reflects the complicated, distressing maze of emotions he finds himself in, juxtaposed against the mundane and repetitive normalcy of a highway commute. These real-time pauses in dialogue permit time for extended glimpses into Locke’s psyche, as the viewer is forced to consider both what Locke is thinking and, perhaps more interestingly, how they might handle any one of the challenging situations he faces. These captivating moments feel both serene and tumultuous, both deeply personal and starkly detached.
Finally, while I do not think this is essential to enjoy the film, I find the name choice interesting. John Locke, an important British Enlightenment philosopher perhaps most well-known for his contributions to the social contract theory, also produced writings on the self and consciousness, concluding that we derive our knowledge from our experiences. The Locke of this film is forced to learn hard lessons about the world he inhabits because of his choices and his experiences, and ultimately comes to a deeper understanding of his identity by the end of the film. I can only assume this connection is not a coincidence, which to me deepens the philosophically-underpinned thematic thrusts of this intellectually stimulating film.
If I haven’t made it clear thus far, I definitely recommend this film – never allowing itself to be bogged down by its premise, “Locke” is interesting, original, and beautiful to behold.