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'Locke' review: Tom Hardy in thriller - BFI London Film Festival 2013

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Director: Steven Knight; Screenwriter Steven Knight; Starring: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, Ruth Wilson, Tom Holland; Running time: 85 mins; Certificate: TBC

Tom Hardy's 'Locke'


"One flaw in the foundation, and the entire building will collapse," Tom Hardy's methodical, meticulous construction manager Ivan Locke explains patiently, in a moment that sums up both the poetry and the lack of subtlety in Steven Knight's sometimes-extraordinary script. We find Locke on the evening when a single flaw - an utterly uncharacteristic moment of weakness - is about to bring his life crashing down around him.

Locke's compact running time takes place entirely within the leading man's BMW, as he drives from Birmingham to Croydon to witness the birth of his child. The mother, Bethan (Olivia Colman) isn't his wife or even his mistress, but a near-stranger with whom he had a one night stand. Driven by an iron-cast sense of duty, he abandons his post at work the night before a major concrete pour, and spends much of the journey giving instructions to a hapless junior colleague (Andrew Scott) over the phone.

"I have behaved not at all like myself," Locke says, and we believe him. The indiscretion with Bethan seems perplexing even to him, a crack in a seemingly rock-solid foundation. The intriguing but largely unexplored implication is that this is only the beginning. He speaks in detached, methodical sentences, determinedly calm as he fields hands-free calls from the hospital, his devastated wife (Ruth Wilson), his furious boss (Ben Daniels) and his children (Tom Holland and Bill Milner). Despite his best efforts to keep a handle on things from behind the wheel, the world outside his car is unravelling.

Locke takes his work more than seriously; concrete is his religion. In one striking moment, his wife recalls the still-liquid concrete he trails around the house, his footsteps turning to stone behind him. For him to abandon his duties and risk his job is unthinkable, but to abandon his duties to Bethan is equally so. It's this tension that makes Knight's sparse script and Hardy's performance so mesmerising.

Comparisons to David Cronenberg's Cosmopolis are inevitable: Locke, like Robert Pattinson's Eric Packer, loses everything over the course of a real-time drive. But Packer could come and go freely and take visitors in his otherworldly limo, where here Hardy and his BMW are all we see on screen. Few actors could shoulder this level of scrutiny - every twitch and shift in expression is magnified - but Hardy's restraint is breathtaking.

Locke's unsettled psyche, the anxious darkened motorway and the disembodied voices around him create a subtly unsettling tone. Locke is unlike any other thriller this year, its major disappointment being a third act that leaves too much chaos unresolved.

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