May 5, 2014 at 2:47 pm | Posted in 2014 | 1 Comment
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◊ ◊ ◊ ◊ ½

The problem with a movie conceit is that, all too often, it ends up simply being a gimmick.  The conceit here is that the entire film takes place in a car driving toward London and the audience only sees the driver of that car as he makes various phone calls. What a disaster that could be; it just sounds pretentious. However, under the deft hand of writer/director Steven Knight (who wrote the screenplays for “Eastern Promises” and “Dirty Pretty Things,” among others) and stellar acting by Tom Hardy (“The Dark Knight Rises,” “Warrior” and star of the upcoming “Mad Max” remakes), this film becomes a gripping and touching story. Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a man driving frantically toward London and a commitment that he believes he has to  keep regardless of the cost.  It is tempting to imagine some sort of gangster story, villain on the run, a bad guy who’s bad choices are catching up to him.  However, the story is far more subtle and realistic. This is an ordinary guy who finds himself in a very ordinary and unfortunate situation.  You might not quite agree with the way he has chosen to handle it but the film spends its 85 minutes trying to make that choice a believable one. Through increasingly taut conversations with his boss,co-worker, wife, kids and others, we watch Locke agonize but continue on. Given that Hardy’s is the only face we see, he has to hold our attention and make us believe in who Locke is and what he’s doing. If you’ve seen him in the undervalued “Warrior,” you know he is up to the task.  Credit also goes to all the other actors, who have only their voices to engage the audience. Almost universally, they do a fine job. The best scene comes during Ivan’s last call with his son, where they discuss a football goal. It’s a heart-wrenching moment that required both actors to be wholly present in the heavily laden silence between what was being said. I felt that deeply sad moment much more so than any other moment on film so far this year. It is impossible, of course, to name a movie “Locke” without all of the implications that name implies and, true to form, this is essentially a story about whether or not we are slaves to our genes or actually tabula rasa, capable of shaping our own destinies (is Ivan just a Locke in the long line of what his family name means or can he make choices for himself and break the pattern?).  Happily, the film does not try to answer the question.  It just asks it in a clear, unnervingly simple, way.


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