BluRay/DVD Reviews

LOCKE

By • Aug 14th, 2014 •

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Single location films are nothing new. Alfred Hitchcock famously wanted to shoot an entire movie inside a phone booth (he had already directed LIFEBOAT, a film which takes place entirely in the title craft), and the great indy filmmaker/screenwriter Larry Cohen attempted to oblige him with a script idea called, no surprise, PHONE BOOTH. When interviewed by Filmmaker Magazine in 2003, Cohen said he had the basic idea in the ’70s. “I talked many years ago with Alfred Hitchcock about doing this movie. He was very taken with the idea – I’d run into him and he’d say, ‘Where’s my phone booth movie?’ After he died I saw his daughter, Pat Hitchcock, at a DGA event – Hitchcock was getting a commemorative postage stamp. When she said he’d had many projects he’d wanted to do – including one set in a phone booth – that knocked me out of my seat!” PHONE BOOTH was finally made in 2002 with Joel Schumacher directing and Colin Farrel starring as the man trapped in the booth. 2010 saw the release of BURIED ALIVE, with Ryan Reynolds as an Iraq-based American civilian truck driver who, after being attacked and kidnapped, wakes to find himself buried alive in a wooden coffin, with a flashlight and a mobile phone. More recently, in 2013, ALL IS LOST gave us Robert Redford as a lone man struggling to survive in a crippled sailboat for the entirety of its 105 minute length. (The film has so little spoken dialogue, the shooting script was only 31 pages long.)

LOCKE is the latest entry in this niche genre category. The plot (accurately synopsized on Wikipedia) is as follows: The day before he must supervise a massive concrete pour in Birmingham, construction foreman Ivan Locke learns that Bethan, a co-worker with whom he had a one-night stand seven months ago, has gone into premature labour. He decides to abandon his family, as well as his job, in order to drive to London to be with Bethan during childbirth. The movie consists entirely of scenes of Locke in his car, phoning his boss and a colleague to ensure that the pour is successful, phoning his wife Katrina to confess his infidelity, and phoning Bethan to reassure her during her labour.

The title character is played by Tom Hardy (INCEPTION; TINKER, TAILOR, SOLDIER, SPY), and his is the only character seen on screen for the entirety of the film’s 84 minutes. Hitchcock could not have made this film, because the hi-tech communications technology that now comes standard on many automobiles did not exist during his lifetime. There were mobile car phones in the early nineteen-seventies, but they were big and clunky, and they involved speaking with operators every time you wanted to reach someone. (Watch Jack Lemmon’s character in SAVE THE TIGER making calls from his car to see what I mean.) Hardy’s Locke is liberated by hands-free cellular technology, and an on-board computer screen that identifies for us each character he is contacting or being contacted by.

In a film such as this, the movie lives or dies by the solitary actor’s performance, and like Redford in the aforementioned ALL IS LOST, Hardy delivers a characterization of remarkable restraint. Knowing your going to be the only person on screen for an hour and a half must create a strong temptation in an actor to fill that screen with overplayed emotions. Hardy never does this, no matter how awful and seemingly insurmountable his character’s predicaments become. Of his interpretation of Locke, Hardy stated in an interview with Nathan Bevan for WalesOnline.com that “I wanted my character to be like a ship’s captain forced to weather this terrible storm – although, admittedly, one which is largely of his own making. He’s this really down-to-earth guy who manages to exhibit a great deal of grace under pressure. So while all these crises are going on and people are losing their heads around him, he somehow manages to keep it together. As a result, I figured he needed to sound soothing and centred, so I listened a lot to Richard Burton (reciting) Dylan Thomas and attempted to emulate him.”

The film’s only weak notes are struck when Locke carries on an imaginary conversation with his dead father, a device one wishes writer/director Steven Knight had resisted implementing. (One thinks of Tom Hanks’ verbal exchanges with a mute soccer ball in CASTAWAY, or even the mostly unnecessary and redundant voice-over narration in THE INCREDIBLE SHRINKING MAN.) But this is a minor complaint, and these scenes in no way derail the film in any appreciable way from its course, much like Ivan Locke, who commits himself to moving forward, to not turning back, no matter the consequences. There is a kind of blank verse power in how Locke repeats over and over to the hysterical, disembodied voices remonstrating him over the phone that “This is a decision I have made.” He keeps on moving through the night, losing almost everything but himself along the way, and he carries us forward with him.

Some interesting production notes gleaned from the IMDB page for LOCKE:

The movie had an unconventional shooting schedule. Tom Hardy filmed his part in 6 days, shooting the movie twice per night as it was filmed in a single take with three cameras rolling. The other actors were in a hotel room, speaking on the phone with Hardy, who was on location.

Ivan Locke’s cold was written into the script because actor Tom Hardy had a cold during production.

The BMW used in the film is installed with a “low fuel warning” alert and would make a noise whenever the car was running out of petrol. The noise disrupted Tom Hardy’s performance during takes, but director Steven Knight kept the actor’s frustrated reactions in the movie and substituted the car’s noise with “you have a call waiting” instead.

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