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Ray Pride

By Ray Pride

Sundance 2014 Review: Locke

Locke_still_72dpi     A man is on the run: from his life, toward his life, a mortal Locke. Writer-director Steven Knight’s second feature, demarcates one man’s pungent unwinding of notions of himself across a couple of dark hours. Coursing south on the M1 artery from Birmingham toward London, putting family and a multi-decamillion-pound concrete pour in his rearview mirror, Ivan Locke talks, Locke listens. Ivan Locke is a man of concrete who, this one day, has cracked. Tom Hardy is in the driver’s seat, although the actors who play his wife, his boys, his boss, his conspirators, the lover he knew for only a night—Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson, Andrew Scott, Tom Holland, Bill Milner—provide urgent support. There’s fury under the calm of Hardy’s Locke. He’s a one-man Long Good Friday. (That Bob Hoskins-starring gangster classic culminates with one of the great long takes in the back seat of a car of all time.) Locke soothes down the line, you can see how he would be good at manhandling huge construction projects as he negotiates the terms of his self-orchestrated maelstrom of meltdown. He assures about traffic, about passage. “I’m in the car now, it’ll be no more than an hour-and-a-half if there’s no traffic.” (It can’t be: the film is only 85 minutes long.) As the voices punch at him in succession, perspective blurs and light sources eddy red, white, blue, yellow, guttering like phosphorescent tapers, streaks and flurries of headlamps, tail lights, red and white light elongating from opposite directions. It’s light as inchoate emotion, light as insensate commentary, a slow and persistent mood. Resemblances to the light show of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Michael Chapman’s Taxi Driver Manhattan, and a panoply of visual notions from experimental filmmakers like Jordan Belson could be amply catalogued. (Antiquated Panavision lenses add to the bloom and anamorphic splay of light sources in every shot.)

Light plays over the BMW, kaleidoscopic glimmers, a neon tapestry of urban night world that scans across his features as he traverses the motorway, the play of light off other vehicles silently sizzling, relentlessly simmering surfaces infecting his calm. Haris Zambarloukos’ fondness for textures, seen in Enduring Love, nests in Locke’s nubby fisherman’s-style sweater, one of several elements in the confines of the car that make the space cannily domestic. And the play with light and reflection that was one of the few kindnesses of Sir Kenneth Branagh’s Sleuth remake serves Locke well. As Locke grows more distressed, the look provides a vital visual/emotional corollary to Michael Mann’s slashing action painting of ineffectual masculinity’s pageantry. (As does the plangent melancholy of Dickon Hinchliffe’s minimal score.) The dialogue is lovingly stylized, a hair shy of the spoken beauty of Abraham Polonsky’s Body & Soul and Force Of Evil. “Have you even told your wife I’m just about to have your baby?”; “And tonight she’s giving birth, tonight she’s giving birth and it’s mine.” “I have made my decision.” “I was trying to be normal.” Locke has a couple of proud passages of what it is he thinks he does as a construction manager: “My building will alter the water table and shatter granite” and cast an immense shadow across its city. Hardy’s delivery is nuanced and impeccable, and there is one pluperfectly placed, ideal intonation of the word “yes” that is little more than a hardly-heard miaow. It hits like, well, concrete. Why should one of his employees clean up the messes before dawn? “You do it for the piece of sky we are stealing… you do it most of all for the concrete, which is like blood.” Locke repeats the name of necessary admixture of the concrete, “C6,” the way John Garfield utters “Policy! Policy!” repeatedly in Force Of Evil, referring to lottery gambling. The line, “Yes, absolutely, hopefully” brings to mind Thomas Mitchell in the same film with the clatter-down euphony of  “My final answer is finally no. The answer is no! Absolutely and finally no! Finally and positively no! No! No! No! N – O!” As well, how the mother of the child from his one night of two-bottles-of-wine sympathy describes herself, her  limitations: “I’m not a reader of books, a talker, a builder.” Locke wants to redeem that sadness. Her sadness. The sadness he could not acknowledge until this drive. And, too, Locke a space oddity in his tin can, tethered to lifelines, to cite David Bowie:

This is Major Tom to ground control, I’m stepping through the door And I’m floating in a most peculiar way And the stars look very different today Here am I sitting in a tin can far above the world Planet Earth is blue and there’s nothing I can do Though I’m past one hundred thousand miles, I’m feeling very still And I think my spaceship knows which way to go Tell my wife I love her very much.

Hardy’s calm affect as Locke weathers the cellular storm matches Bowie’s flat delivery, too. “The traffic is fine, it’ll be okay.” Locke was rehearsed a week, shot for a week, with five complete versions of the film shot in sequence, by one report. Three RED digital cameras with memory cards that could hold thirty-seven minutes at time were use. The actors on the phone calls were in a nearby hotel room, and Hardy had access to multiple teleprompters (or “autocues”) in the car. “I’m just driving, that’s it,” he says in one way, another, and another. It’s a journey to the end of his soul, unwinding slowly as his control frays. “I’m driving,” he says, and the BMW is his cranium, and the voices the voices rocketing within, the car less infernal cage than fevered skull. But it’s not a stunt, no, no, no: all the confinement, the inspired technical legerdemain, it’s all a means to an end, and that end is Locke. All is lost, but will be found: It’s a movie and it’s a goddam great movie-movie experience.

2 Responses to “Sundance 2014 Review: Locke”

  1. david says:

    Locke seems to be fantastic! Quote from Steven Knight himself: “To make this movie work, i needed the best actor there is…” And that’s who you got sir! The very best!

  2. kevin says:

    a fabulous film that really stuck with me. I hope it finds an audience.


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“Ten years ago at Telluride, I said on a panel that theatrical distribution was dying. It seemed obvious to me. I was surprised how many in the audience violently objected: ‘People will always want to go to the movies!’ That’s true, but it’s also true that theatrical cinema as we once knew it has died. Theatrical cinema is now Event Cinema, just as theatrical plays and musical performances are Events. No one just goes to a movie. It’s a planned occasion. Four types of Event Cinema remain.
1. Spectacle (IMAX-style blockbusters)
2. Family (cartoon like features)
3. Horror (teen-driven), and
4. Film Club (formerly arthouse but now anything serious).

There are isolated pockets like black cinema, romcom, girl’s-night-out, seniors, teen gross-outs, but it’s primarily those four. Everything else is TV. Now I have to go back to episode five of ‘Looming Tower.'”
~ Paul Schrader

“Because of my relative candor on Twitter regarding why I quit my day job, my DMs have overflowed with similar stories from colleagues around the globe. These peeks behind the curtains of film festivals, venues, distributors and funding bodies weren’t pretty. Certain dismal patterns recurred (and resonated): Boards who don’t engage with or even understand their organization’s artistic mission and are insensitive to the diverse neighborhood in which their organization’s venue is located; incompetent founders and/or presidents who create only obstacles, never solutions; unduly empowered, Trumpian bean counters who chip away at the taste and experiences that make organizations’ cultural offerings special; expensive PR teams that don’t bring to the table a bare-minimum familiarity with the rich subcultural art form they’re half-heartedly peddling as “product”; nonprofit arts organizations for whom art now ranks as a distant-second goal behind profit.”
~ Eric Allen Hatch