If nothing else, Locke is a tour de force for Hardy (Dark Knight Rises, Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy). We watch him struggle quietly for nearly 90 minutes as he drives toward his destiny, all the while handling numerous calls in an attempt to keep his crumbling life together. Hardy’s craft, depicting a wide range of emotion with only subtle moments, provides the tension in this highly personal story intense enough to keep you invested through till the end.
Though we only get to see one actor, there are a series of off-screen characters that become very real through their phone calls. How their existence affects you, how much you think about or envision them, will reflect how you experience the story put before you. That aspect is, in part, one of the interesting points of the story.
Knight (Eastern Promises, Peaky Blinders), who is best known for his script duties over the years, takes the helm as director as well this time. He craftily builds a one-room story on wheels with only a single person on screen. It becomes an interesting contrast to how Iñárritu used a similar bit of craft to very different effect in Birdman. One annoyance for me was that Knight resorted to a repeating visual trope that I eventually found distracting and confusing. The sweep of blurred highway lights was intended to give visual relief from the story, cut potential for the editor, and transitions between moments, but it also implied time passage when, in fact, there was none. It defused the rather neat approach of the real-time drive for me.
Making time for this story just to see Hardy’s range and ability is worth your effort. Knight’s cleverness will either work for you or not. How you absorb the denoument is up to you. I struggled a bit with the ending, but I can’t argue with it. I’m definitely not sorry I got in the car and took the drive.