Ivan Locke, a dedicated family man and successful construction manager, receives a phone call on the eve of the biggest challenge of his career that sets in motion a series of events that threaten his careful cultivated existence.
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 1hr 25min
The danger in writing about “Locke” is in giving away too much of the story. Or, in celebrating the movie’s somber splendor, damning it with too much praise. We wouldn’t want the fault to be in our stars — four of ’em.
Yet, actor Tom Hardy and writer-director Steven Knight make it nearly impossible to keep a lid on it.
So here are the caveats, such as they are. “Locke” is a brooding indie ride about one man’s personal crisis. Shot in the shadows and headlight-glare of a night-time highway to London, its action takes place almost entirely in a BMW sedan driven by a construction-site foreman headed from point A to point B.
This unplanned sojourn begins after a phone call rouses him to actions that may — probably will ? — upend everything he’s worked hard to secure in his life.
I won’t give away the exact destination, but Point A is the construction site where Ivan Locke (Hardy) is a highly regarded foreman.
The film begins with Ivan taking off his dust- and debris-caked work boots and getting into his car. Knight gives us a few orienting cues. Locke has the attire of a worker, the long hours, too, it seems, but slips behind the wheel of a nicely appointed BMW.
Other cues will come via the car’s illuminated Bluetooth directory. Who, we ask, rates the moniker “Bastard”?
We quickly learn how trusted Locke is by the fury his initial phone calls instigate. There are those to his boss Gareth (Ben Daniels) and to his second, Donal, played by Andrew Scott, doing a lovely job voicing the worries of a guy not quite up to the task about to befall him.
Locke is in charge of the concrete pour of a foundation for a Chicago-based conglomerate. Europe’s largest “pour” is set to take place the next morning. Ivan will not be there.
The other even harder set of calls he makes are to “Home.” At various times either wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) or sons Eddie (Tom Holland) or Sean (Bill Milner) provide the voices at the other end of those conversations. Ivan is expected home to watch a televised football match. (“Mom got sausage,” Eddie says enthusiastically.) He won’t be.
For the next 80 or so minutes we watch — and listen — as Ivan tries to control situations that this night-time drive endangers
“Locke” is at once a lesson in distracted and frightfully focused driving. The title character often talks to his listeners with a preternatural calm that has surely served him well as boss and model employee, husband and father.
He’s a little more edgy talking to his dead father — whom we never see but learn a telling amount about. To add to this slightly hallucinatory aspect, writer-director Knight has saddled Ivan with a cold. So its reasonable to fear drowsiness, slow reaction times.
“Locke” is a moody kin to two 2013 dramas: “All Is Lost” and the Oscar-winning “Gravity.” One began on a sailboat in the Indian Ocean, the other outside a space station. So while we may feel ourselves marooned like Robert Redford’s and Sandra Bullock’s characters, for most of us, that is a metaphorical condition.
“Locke” is ruminative and deeply human like those acclaimed dramas. It is also more taut and arguably a better film, not least for being painfully relatable.
The crises Ivan Locke faces with a tremendous will to do the right thing strike a chord. The mistakes that have him in the driver’s seat, but hardly in control, are terribly human and all too familiar.
Lisa Kennedy: 303-954-1567, firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/bylisakennedy