An unconventional film delivers a compelling portrait of a man’s life disintegrating
There is an XKCD comic of charts showing which characters are on screen together over the course of a film. It starts with elaborate designs showing the interactions in Lord of the Rings and Star Wars. It ends, however, with 12 Angry Men which unsurprisingly consists of 12 parallel lines. The graph for Locke would potentially be even simpler. The only character who appears on screen is Ivan Locke, a construction manager played by Tom Hardy. The story unfolds through a succession of phone calls he makes while driving down a motorway at night.
I’ve seen it described as a thriller in a number of places. That’s not really the correct label. While it’s certainly suspenseful, the events are more mundane than one associates with a thriller. What it is in effect is the descent of man has built is identity on self-control seeing his life move out of his control.
If you have hesitations on account of the unconventional format, I’d urge you to put them aside. It has a first rate cast including not only Hardy but also Olivia Colman, Ben Daniels, Ruth Wilson and (a very un-Moriarty like) Andrew Scott. That’s combined with a carefully crafted script and complemented by cinematography which amplifies the claustrophobia of the situation and makes you feel Locke’s isolation.
Verdict: 8/10 – an understated triumph