***Some unavoidable spoilers that are all revealed very soon in the film anyway***
Here’s an unusual idea. A film starring one person, filmed entirely in a car as he drives along a motorway to London. The only other cast members are just voices, heard over his mobile phone in the car. Not completely new, of course. Before this, we have had other films starring one person, the most recent of which I can recall was ‘Buried’, in 2010. In that film, Ryan Reynolds plays a man buried alive in a war zone, with the only other characters heard over a phone too.
With ‘Locke’, we have the redoubtable Tom Hardy as the only visible character, Ivan Locke. He is driving his car from some unnamed place, to visit a woman in London who is about to give birth to his baby. He spends the entire film talking to work colleagues about concrete, or to his wife about how their life is unravelling. He also occasionally talks to the woman having his baby, or her doctors and nurses. When he is not on the ‘phone, he is talking to his father; but as this is only in his imagination, we do not see that character either.
So to sum up, we have a lead character who is obsessed with his job, and the pouring of concrete into the building site where he is the manager. He has to try to calm down the woman who is having his baby, someone he hardly knows and has slept with just the once. He has the unenviable task of telling his wife this news over the telephone, whilst trying to act normally with both his young sons, who expect him home to watch a big football match on TV. In the middle of all this, he is also trying to motivate one of his employees to step up and oversee the pouring of the concrete the next morning. All this, as he drives his car down a busy motorway late in the evening.
For most sensible film fans this would be enough to make them lose interest already. Many of us might well have already stopped reading this review, and decided never to bother with the film. However, I have some startling news for you. It is actually very good. It works, and it works well, even though it shouldn’t. There are quite a few reasons why it works so well. For one thing, it is shot in real time. This is not only apparent, but adds to the overall sense of reality that pervades the film. Then there are the actors who voice the other parts. They are all excellent, and completely convincing. Given that these include Olivia Colman, Tom Holland, and Ruth Wilson, that comes as no surprise.
Most of all, the spellbinding Tom Hardy is very capable of holding the film together. He has a cold, he wants the concrete to get poured, and he knows that his marriage has been badly affected. Yet he is determined to do the decent thing by the woman having his baby. He refuses to repeat the mistakes made by his own father, whatever the cost to his life, which he seems to be juggling like spinning plates for most of this film. Not many films surprise me, but this one did.
And for some reason, Hardy also does it all in a Welsh accent.
(In case you were wondering about road safety, the scenes in the car were filmed as it was towed along on a trailer.)