It’s easy to imagine Locke as a play. One-actor films are rare, and while one-actor plays are rare, too, they’re considerably more commonplace. Locke is a one-actor film, although we do get to hear voices from other actors. There is a singular location, a straightforward plot told exclusively through dialogue, and a surprising amount of depth given the way it’s all set up. Locke doesn’t overstay its welcome, either, ending after 85 enjoyable minutes.
The only actor we get to see is Tom Hardy, here playing Ivan Locke, a foreman who, by all accounts, is very good at his job. He’s a good father, good husband, and should be on his way home to watch the big soccer—I won’t call it football because it’s not called that here, even if it is in the film—game, and then get a good night’s rest because he’s got a large concrete pour to oversee the next morning. But he’s not driving home. Ivan gets into his BMW and heads on a trip to London. Why? What about the game? Or the concrete pour? What’s going on with him?
As we learn from his various telephone conversations, he made one singular mistake, which was sleeping with a woman while out on a job. She’s gone into labor, and he’s decided that he needs to be there for her, despite barely knowing the woman. He hadn’t previously told anyone of his indiscretion, so he has that to deal with, and he also has to figure out a way to ensure that the concrete pouring goes well, despite being fired really early into the film. It’s a lot to take in for a man who’s taking a journey that will change the entire course of his life.
Ivan also talks to his “father,” who is invisible and in reality deceased, because that’s the only way the filmmakers could figure out a way to relay to the audience our protagonist’s deepest thoughts. Why, exactly, would Ivan decide to ruin his life all to be there for the birth of a bastard child? Well, we find out because of this decision. I’m not sure if it works better or worse than an inner monologue, but both are transparent and obvious, distracting us from what’s going on.
Locke is worth seeing but not worth going out of your way for.
Mostly, though, we’re focused on Tom Hardy, who puts on a Welsh accent—for those who care—and turns in a very impressive performance. He’s so captivating in the role that one can watch him for just over 80 minutes and be completely compelled. There’s no real action, but the conversations he has with the people and the way that he conducts himself over the duration of the film keeps us interested. It’s a testament to how a good actor can make up for a great deal. A bad actor in this role make Locke a complete bore. How much do you like just watching someone talk for 80 minutes?
Unfortunately for me, outside of the “hey, it’s like a play” factor, there isn’t a lot to Locke. It’s enjoyable, Tom Hardy is really great in the lead, the plot is of moderate interest, and … that’s really it. That’s all I’ve got to say. Locke is worth seeing but not worth going out of your way for. If it’s on Netflix or available cheap on home video, then by all means, go for it. You’ll have fun. It’s unlikely you’ll want to see it more than once, and you’re not going to remember it too well in a few days, but for what it is it’s good fun.
Conclusion: Locke is an interesting movie and a decent one.
Recommendation: If you like Tom Hardy, Locke puts him front-and-center. So there’s that.