Film Review: Locke

Locke is one of those strange films that has been on my radar ever since its original cinema run at the start of the year. I remember at the time, people raving about it, about Tom Hardy and about how the director, Steven Knight, had managed to create a cinematic masterpiece out of something so mundane. I even heard an interview with Knight earlier this week in which he talked about how he wanted to create a theatrical piece more than a film. And how Hollywood may like it’s CGI robot fights and skewed realities of evolution, but that on occasions there is true simplicity and beauty in the organic world around us if we’re prepared to look for it.

That for me, is the problem though. I fully agree that urbanisation, modern concrete infrastructure is and can be, beautiful. Even the most regimentally bland, grey and cold 1970’s concrete high-rise can be stunning if viewed from an unusual angle or lit from the right direction. Make no mistake of that. However, what Knight has tried to do in Locke is take that singular beauty, the moment of picturesque clarity and turn it into a film. Locke felt to me more like 85 minutes of postcard pictures, pages of a coffee table book than a proper feature film.

There is of course a counter argument to this: that while the movie is visually stunning, to a point of over balance, you cannot question the performance of Tom Hardy, but for me, it isn’t. Hardy, the only character to appear on screen, plays the role of Ivan Locke, and plays him well but that’s it. He’s never truly convincing, he feels almost like he’s hopping from line to line. I think this problem is created, or amplified, by the fact that he is the only character, who is then confined to the space purely within his car. It means that when he answers the phone, takes the call and interacts with the outside world, it is actually very hard to connect the two. It feels more as though you are multitasking. That what your eyes and ears are accepting are from different sources.

Tom Hardy - Locke

The strangest thing though, is that while I found all these issues with Locke, at no point was I bored. Certainly I wasn’t engrossed, it’s not a film I’d probably watch again but I was never bored, my mind never wandered. I just never truly got into it. I think that you have to look at Locke, through completely different eyes to those you would use when watching a normal mass produced Hollywood blockbuster. Locke is a film of ideas, of imagery. And ultimately responsibility.

It wants to change the eyes through which you view the world. It wants to ask questions, not of Ivan Locke but of you. And it’s not looking to answer those questions either. I think that’s why I was never bored but never engrossed. At its heart is one very simple question: Where does responsibility lie? Do you do the right thing and risk everything you have or do you hurt one person in the name of protecting countless others?

It’s a very simple idea on which to base a film. Hundreds if not thousands of films have been set on that exact premise before, and will long into the future I’m sure. And I credit Knight from looking at it from a completely new, fresh and innovative angle, the problem is he has just failed in my view to really pull it off. I’ve already said that I found the film disconnected between the audio and visual elements but my biggest issue is that the feel, tone and pacing through its very nature, very monotonous. We all knew how boring and repetitive a motor journey is in real life and Knight tried to counter this with stunning long exposure or out of focus shots of car lights and passing traffic but just like the never ending recycling of white line, cats eye, white line, cats eye as the miles tick by there is only so many shots of blurred lamp posts you can take before you just want to shout “Are we there yet?”

Don’t be put off Locke, it’s an interesting take on film making and cinematic styles, but it very much style over substance and for me, it’s not a film I’d want to watch again. Having said that, the conversations he has throughout his journey, the outcomes he strives for and the situations he faces are still in my head. Part of me wishes I knew what happened the next day, knew how things turned out, the problem is, I’m not sure I want to watch the return journey to find out!

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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