Motorway to Damascus – Director Steven Knight (Hummingbird, script writer for Cronenberg’s ‘Eastern Promises’ 2007) introduced the screening of his second film as a director ‘Locke’ (2013) by commenting on the movie being somewhat of an experiment. They had developed the idea/script for the movie, but weren’t actually sure funding would be found to complete it, wanting to try something new generally doesn’t inspire accountants. However, words like that are music to my ears (and relative to the movie, eyes), the inherent belief in the essence/potential of a work, that everyone has to go on a journey to realise it, complete it, and to do it justice. And my how they have.
I could spend the entire review writing line after line of hyperbole of how much I positively resonated with this movie, but that would go completely against the pure distillation of masterful storytelling that is going on in ‘Locke’. In one lane it’s just construction manager Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) initially driving home to his wife and kids in the dark of night, but with the flick of the car indicators, his entire life changes.
As is the norm, I’ll not give any of the plot away. I saw this movie without much knowledge (other than very positive comments), so the story unfolded with each mile passed. We are on a road trip into Ivan’s future, past and identity. Each of those roads are etched into Hardy’s face, eyes and words as he is effectively pulling apart the road map of his entire existence and identity, all whilst wanting to make sure of a successful concrete pour (the biggest ever in Europe outside military contracts) that is planned to happen early the next morning on the site he has just driven away from. There are elements of Hercules and his 12 Labours going on to make this happen, but from the front seat of BMW.
No doubt an element of the doubt/risk in getting the movie made was the fact that the sole focus of the entire movie would be on a single actor. There are other actors vocally involved via phone conversations, including Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott and Ruth Wilson, who are all fantastic. It just emphasises the power of the script written by Knight, the power of the word, and the power of universal story telling. Ivan Locke is every Man, he is the complicated mess/chaos that is Man encapsulated, our attempts to bring structure to life are futile. To say Hardy is successful in an absolute injustice, he is stunning. It’s the finest performance I’ve ever seen him do, there is a subtlety at work of a true craftsman, that doesn’t really have a place in the more bombastic features he’s generally part of. His evoking of Ivan is a career high though, which will only set the foundation for yet higher work.
Despite the simple premise of the film, at no stage is it dull or boring. It’s effectively a one man play, but belts along in the emotional roller coaster fast lane. It looks hypnotically beautiful too, as the traffic/motorway lights dance across the screen to a wonderful soundtrack, giving it a dream like (nightmare) quality, as if the very gods of Olympus are playing with Ivan’s life.
I didn’t get the chance to ask Steven Knight if Ivan had been inspired by English philosopher John Locke, who believed in Man’s ability to decide who he wanted to be despite there upbringing/background (“the little and almost insensible impressions on our tender infancies have very important and lasting consequences.”), but I couldn’t stop thinking about it after the movie. In many ways, it’s the biggest battle anyone of us will ever face.
’Locke’ is out now.