Locke Review

An intriguingly stripped-down road movie comes to Blu-Ray

Charting the events of one fateful evening and filmed almost exclusively within and around the confines of the eponymous character’s car, Locke starts with a simple binary choice: turn left or turn right? The consequences of the decision that Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) makes prove far-reaching not only for the course of his evening but for his future and those people closest to him. Embarking on a journey from Birmingham to London, Ivan’s final destination is the hospital bedside of a woman who is having his child, a woman he barely knows. That Ivan is a married man with two sons and he is stepping away from his established duties, not only as a parent but also as a construction site manager at a critical point in a key project, makes his attempts to face up to his new parental responsibilities much more complicated.

Over the course of his journey to London, Ivan sets about trying to get all his affairs in order, professional and private, as a means of doing the right thing. Punctuated by a series of phone calls and monologues, he confesses his infidelity and impending fatherhood to his wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson), attempts to talk his erratic junior workman Donal (Andrew Scott) through final checks for ensuring the successful delivery and pour of a large concrete order, and provides support and reassurance to Bethan (Olivia Colman), the ‘other woman’ in his extra-marital tryst. As a man who is renowned for, and takes pride in, his reputation for honesty, integrity and reliability Ivan takes this on as a personal mission to deliver on his responsibilities regardless of the consequences to himself personally, risking his marriage and livelihood in the process. At the root of this single-minded determination to front up to his shortcomings as a husband and father to one family and not to shirk his sense of duty to another, is Ivan’s deep-rooted resentment at his own absentee father and a staunch resolve not to emulate his failures.

In doing so Ivan betrays his own weaknesses as a man who approaches his private life in much the same way as he does his professional duties. This exposes existing tensions in his marriage, where the would-be perfect husband and father demonstrates a greater affinity with the demands of his working life routinely involving extended periods away from home – one such detail having provided the conditions for his current predicament. Indeed whilst the thought of breaking up his own family deeply affects Ivan, when in discussion with Katrina he still reverts to talking about a ‘practical next step’ as if discussing a (re)building project. Faced with the raw emotional states of both his wife and Bethan, Ivan retreats to a neutral, practical mindset and we only see him truly animated and impassioned in dealings with other male characters. The relationship with Donal represents an alternative union as the pair bicker and squabble through the travails of the night as the success of the concrete pour hangs in the balance. At one point Donal reacts angrily to Ivan’s accusations of him drinking and later Ivan gently chastises him “I can hear in your voice when you’re drunk”.

Through his relationship with his two sons Ivan has become painfully aware of his parental failings and saves his tears for them. Having sacrificed a night at home with the family in front of the TV to watch a crucial football match, Ivan is faced with dealing with their disappointment and his own shame. His elder son Sean (Bill Milner), senses the gravity of the situation, whilst the younger, Eddie (Tom Holland), begs his father to come home so they can reenact the match, as if previously unseen, as a means rewriting the history of the night for the better. Describing the scoring of the decisive goal by a much-derided striker called Caldwell who, by virtue of this contribution, has been transformed into a hero, Eddie unconsciously draws a parallel between this feat of heroism and that being attempted by Ivan, seeking to recover from his own fall from grace, negotiating penance as a means of achieving rehabilitation. This informs Ivan’s rage against his now-deceased father for whom, in a series of asides, he saves his bitterest tirades and it is perhaps telling that as the most tangible surrogate for that father-son relationship, Ivan stores his boss ‘s phone number under the affectionate alias ‘Bastard’.

As a character study where only the chief protagonist actually appears on screen, Tom Hardy proves himself up to the challenge with solid aural support from the rest of the unseen cast. With great economy he manages to convey Ivan’s earnest humility as a solid, dependable man who has made a grave error of judgement, prepared to confront the full consequences of that mistake to makes things right. However with the events of the previous hour or so in mind writer-director Steven Knight does seem to offer up a veritable moral conundrum questioning the wisdom of adhering to honesty and principle at all costs. In doing so he considers the possibility that whilst compromising truth and shunning certain responsibilities may be morally questionable, in this instance they do provide Ivan with the means to protect himself and those things he holds most dear. With the collateral damage that Ivan’s crusade incurs, where the well-being of others is represented by competing priorities and interests pitched in direct opposition to one another, the pertinent question would appear to be: how can any individual decide what represents the ‘right’ choice? Whilst the ending appears to hint at one possible judgement on Ivan’s chosen path, ultimately Knight appears happy to let us draw our own conclusions.

The Disc

Locke is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1. Intentionally shot in a documentary style in gloomy conditions illuminated solely by artificial light, elsewhere in the supplementary features Knight and DP Haris Zambarloukos discuss the effect they sought to achieve through use of multiple camera angles, motorway lighting and the use of glass and reflections to produce a hypnotic effect. The result is a very strong visual presentation which, whilst achieving the required documentary look and feel, transitions smoothly into a contemplative, dream-like state in Ivan’s quieter more reflective moments.

A DTS-HD Master Audio track represents the single audio option on the disc. Dialogue predominates and this is clear and naturalistic whilst external noise from surrounding traffic adds depth and atmosphere. Equally the score is a spare, minimal piece which Knight had intended to complement or ‘dignify’ the events of the film and in that sense it largely succeeds. There are also English HoH subtitles and Audio Description available.

Ordinary Unraveling: Making Locke (9:36) features amongst others Hardy, Knight, Zambarloukos, and producers Guy Heeley and Paul Webster. This is essentially standard EPK fluff with the key contributors discussing, in short order, the themes of the film, casting, characterisation and technical aspects of the shoot. It is a frustrating watch and probably a missed opportunity exhibiting ample potential for a more substantial documentary piece. As it stands we are left with a somewhat neutered version which provides mere glimpses into behind-the-scenes footage and the creative process.

Audio Commentary with Director Steven Knight – writer-director Knight provides a wealth of information about the background to the film; the character of Ivan, his name and the philosophy that drives the character narrative; the off-screen cast and techniques used to enhance their performances; the technical and logistical challenges in filming on a motorway and the happy accidents and coincidences that this threw up during the shoot; the car, props and paraphernalia which helped flesh out Ivan’s interior world; and the importance of the soundtrack. With any unmoderated commentary piece there is always a risk that the participants contributions will be unstructured and patchy, and whilst there are a sections where Knight goes quiet he is more often than not quickly roused by something that piques his interest and his contributions are consistently lively and engaging. That he has such a level of investment in the film personally, not only as writer and director but also considering the collaborative nature of the shoot itself, shines through. With that in mind one wonders at the increased potential for an alternative track alongside his star and other key contributors.

John Rowall

Updated: Aug 17, 2014

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