Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a man intent on taking responsibility for a mistake he’s made in the new film, “Locke.” Courtesy photo
Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a man intent on taking responsibility for a mistake he’s made in the new film, “Locke.” Courtesy photo
Arts Rancho Santa Fe

Film review: ‘Locke’ is a film driven for success

With Tom Hardy at the wheel, “Locke” proves to be a moving road film.

It’s easy to imagine the word “complexity” going hand-in-hand with an equally elaborate film or book; however, there are simpler ways of exploring the troubles we face.

Director Steven Knight’s “Locke” succeeds in delving into the inner workings of someone owning up to a past mistake, without having to resort to giant sets and a grand scope.

Even with its small budget and limited location, this film loses none of its emotional resonance.

Construction foreman and dedicated family man Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) abandons his post in Birmingham, England and heads to London, intent on taking responsibility for a mistake he’d made.

As he drives through the night, he receives numerous phone calls and tries to resolve problems — both professional and personal — that jeopardize the life he has cultivated.

To say “Locke” is a technical tour de force would be correct; this film receives a perfect score for its ability to create emotional gravitas via striking cinematography and fluid editing.

As a result of combining atmospheric imagery with dynamic camerawork, director Knight achieves a minimalist look that results in a polished aesthetic.

“Locke” takes place on a darkened highway, and the colors you’re likely to find in such a setting are black and yellow. But Knight uses this vivid contrast of shadow and light to his advantage, emphasizing the desolation surrounding Hardy throughout his journey, as well as the demons haunting him within the confines of his car.

Kudos to the director for employing the environment’s low-key color palette to establish the film’s mood!

Throughout this riveting car ride, Hardy has to juggle phone calls from both home and work, all of which combine to intensify the irrevocable course his life is traveling.

This “no turning back” implication appears in the reflections seen in the windows and rear-view mirrors, fading in and out to remind the audience of Hardy’s inner turmoil.

We have cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos to thank for his use of reflective shots to illustrate this intriguing psychological aspect of the film.

Add that to the seamless editing process by Justine Wright, whose organizing of the scenes within Hardy’s BMW results in a film possessing an appropriate documentary feel, and “Locke” has a slick appearance that enhances and benefits from the cast performances.

Speaking of Tom Hardy, he instills a poignant magnetism in the titular role, and his performance gives the audience all the more reason to stick with his character every step of the way.

All emotions are visible, both on his face and in his voice.

He succeeds in creating a character with whom anybody could empathize, and nobody else could have pulled off the same task. He brings an unmistakable somberness to “Locke” that will resonate with moviegoers.

The supporting actors are only heard and never seen, but this unconventional technique works in the film’s favor.

Each phone conversation reveals different sides to the actors’ characters, and they shine in their collective ability to captivate the audience on multiple levels.

Olivia Colman is the reason why Locke’s life unravels in the dark of the night, and she receives top marks for imbuing her other woman with pain and despair.

Ruth Wilson does a brilliant job of conveying Locke’s wife’s whirlwind of emotions, including but not limited to shock, anger, and sadness.

Andrew Scott brims with energy in his role of Locke’s subordinate, interspersing the tragedy with a few bits of comedy to help the audience release tension.

Tom Hardy’s performance alone is a good enough reason to pay to see “Locke,” and if a quiet experimental drama is right up your alley during this summer blockbuster season, consider this film the ideal choice for alternative entertainment.

MPAA rating: R for language throughout.

Run time: 1 hour and 25 minutes

Playing: In limited release