Directed by: Steven Knight. Normally, I hate when people name a movie after the main character, especially if it’s a weird name, because it’s lazy and it makes people double-ask the question: “Lock? Like it’s a movie about locks?” “No, Locke. Like L-O-C-K-E.” “Like John Locke?” “Yeah, but it’s not about John Locke, it’s about another guy named Locke.” Shoot me in the fucking head. Other examples include The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Who’s Walter Mitty? Don’t fucking care); I Love You Philip Morris (Don’t fucking care); and the worst one, To Wong Foo: Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar (Jesus fucking Christ).
Irregardless, this is genuinely one of the best films I’ve seen, one of the most original things I’ve seen on film, one of the best performances Tom Hardy’s ever done (in an already impressive filmography), and, though I usually don’t like this kind of superlative nonsense, I’ll go ahead and say unreservedly that this is The Best Movie of 2014 (that I saw. If you click on the “2014 films” tag at the bottom, you’ll see that the list is pretty tiny). Part of what I love about this movie is the tiny, tiny, scale of it, and the sheer nerve of the filmmakers in this day and age to make a small film. This year saw the finish of Peter Jackson’s Hobbit trilogy, his second giant, bloated, multi-million-dollar trilogy about elves and hobbits, and this one mined from a 90-page children’s book. In an age when we all know full well that the production costs of any single one of those bloated Hobbit movies could buy mosquito nets and clean water wells for every single human on earth who needs one and doesn’t have it, it’s baffling that projects like that are still being green lit (I know that that statement is a generalized statement about a bunch of different topics, not just one topic, but it’s still fucked). So when I see a film like this that provides a working example of small budget, small focus cinema, but still has full creativity, full human drama, and is absolutely beautiful to look at, it gives me tons of hope for independent cinema, it gives me huge respect for Tom Hardy for engaging with something like this when he could keep himself to big-budget Hollywood fare, and it makes me all the more disappointed and angry at the big-budget Hollywood apocalyptic CGI garbage that takes up so much room and basically informs 100% of the content of modern cinema. The central “gimmick” to the movie, that we’re in this car with Locke for 90 minutes straight, following him in more or less real time as he follows through on the most important and difficult night of his life, to me worked wonderfully, and never felt put on or fake or anything. There are so many ways that this movie works for me, one of them being the ordinariness of it: a concrete engineer, the night before a big pour, a huge contract, chooses to drive from the pour site of Birmingham down to London to be present for the birth of his illegitimate child. In doing so, he will burn every bridge he has, with his career and his family, in order to set the imaginary scales right, to prove himself morally superior to his dead father who was not there at his birth. Locke is a very specific, idiosyncratic, and completely believable character. He’s a concrete man, completely dependable, thriving on practicalities, possibilities, science, timing, exactitude, and an almost religious reverence for the art of concrete pouring. He’s also a great family man, a loving husband and father. His one moment of weakness, like concrete, will threaten the integrity of every aspect of his life, and he knows it. When we see him, he already knows that his marriage is over, that his job is over, but he can still control two things: he can still talk his coworker over the phone to make sure the big pour goes alright, not for the bosses, “those bastards in Chicago”, but for the concrete, “for that beautiful piece of sky we’re going to steal with our building!”; and he can be there for the birth of his bastard child, to set right what his father couldn’t. The film is full of technical jargon, the plot twists and drama largely stemming from industrial terminology that most of us will only understand from the tone of voice that Locke and his coworker Donal (voiced by—turns out—Andrew Scott of Sherlock fame) strike with each other. The family drama is important, but the script doesn’t overdo it, doesn’t turn it into a soap opera, allowing the wife (voiced by Olivia Colman, Sophie from Peep Show) to do a really amazing performance. And the film even gives a self-conscious nod to the restrictions of conventional drama in the midst of its attempt at kitchen-sink (or in this case, steering-wheel) realism, when the mother tells Ivan over the phone: “There’s a twist”—the big plot twist is, literally, a twist in the umbilical cord, like a noose around the baby’s neck. So the baby might be dead when Ivan gets there, meaning that he truly loses everything. I could really go on and on about this thing, the completely beautiful shots, the commentary it makes on the beauty of the faceless, grey, industrial highway landscape of the modern nation, and on and on. This film has the audacity to take very little money ($2 million—a drop in the bucket by today’s standards) and use it to make an extremely powerful story about ordinary people and their ordinary working lives, wrenched apart by universal human emotions and urges and flaws. This is the most intelligent film, the most believable and effective and relevant film I’ve seen since Fish Tank. Everyone should see this movie. And it’s only 90 minutes, so no excuses!