Locke, the new in-car thriller written and directed by Steven Knight, comes from a conversation he had with one of his producers about the difficulty of filming in moving cars. Weirdly, this film seems to confirm these limitations rather than challenge them, despite ensuing technological advancements.
Locke follows an ordinary and perceivably honourable man take a turn for the worst when he decides to drive to London, rather than home from his construction job, having received a call that his illegitimate child is to be born that night. Thus, the film is made up of an almost real-time drive where Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) attempts to salvage his job, wife and soon to be born child over hands-free conversations (with the spectre of his dead father in his back seat.)
While it can often be refreshing to see films take place in a single location (sometimes applying extra pressure on an airtight narrative), unfortunately Locke leaves a lot to be desired in the script department. The dialogue can be clunky and unsubtle metaphors hit the audience over the head repeatedly. Hardy makes the best of it however, performing a normally mild-mannered man, with a thick, booming Welsh accent, who sees his life unravel over the course of a car journey.
Equally though, not all of these segments are poorly written. Despite the heavy-handed metaphors, Ivan’s somewhat sociopathic attempts to soothe and control his increasingly estranged wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) are engaging. Similarly, Ivan’s attempts to guide an increasingly inebriated Donal (Andrew Scott) to do the construction work he’s left behind are highly amusing and a nice respite from otherwise rather upsetting plot points.
However when it comes to the real crux of the matter, Locke falls short of really making any kind of emotional impact. While it’s certainly believable that he doesn’t love the impregnated Bethan (Olivia Coleman), given they only met for a short time, it is not enough to attribute his problems on a meekly written, traumatic relationship with his deceased father. These scenes are a clear weakness of the film, and troublingly, are actually supposed to explain the film’s narrative. While there are believable elements to Locke’s breakdown and this is due to Hardy’s excellent delivery, there is no authentic depth to why any of this is happening.
As a result, the film’s climax lacks punch and feels rushed. It’s a shame, as limiting the drama to behind the wheel is an intriguing concept. Equally, it seems a missed opportunity not to take more advantage of the film’s location outside of the car. A more adventurous exploration into the repetitive visual motifs of the motorway could have been intense and rewarding, but instead it merely dresses the stage.