The one-location film is never easy to execute. Or rather, it’s easy to execute, but almost impossible to sustain an engaging and entertaining tone throughout. This is why Steven Knight’s film, Locke, is such a remarkable achievement. Over the course of a two-hour drive (though the film is really a total of one hour and twenty-four minutes), life-changing occurrences happen to construction foreman Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) as he opts to abandon a major concrete pour he’s in charge of in Birmingham to go to London.
The reason behind his sudden absconding? The discovery that a woman he had an infidelitous one-night stand with, Bethan (voiced by Olivia Colman), has gone into premature labor. With no time to waste in getting to the hospital, he hits the road and proceeds to call everyone important in his life to inform them of his abrupt departure, including his wife, Katrina (voiced by Ruth Wilson). The controlled nature of his voice and demeanor is in direct opposition to how he truly feels as he confesses to the one-time dalliance. Conveying the emotion expertly through vocals and silence, every person Locke talks to on the phone (a total of thirty-six calls with the same group of people in all) wields their voice in a way that makes them seem as though they’re actually onscreen.
Trying his best to accommodate all those he’s disappointed, Ivan even offers to oversee the job as much as possible via phone with his associate Donal (voiced by Andrew Scott) to make sure that the pour–which has American money tied to it–goes seamlessly. This isn’t enough to placate his boss (listed as Bastard in Ivan’s contacts), who fires Ivan in spite of his nine years of unblemished service. With the loss of his job, and soon, the loss of his wife and family, Ivan looks back in his rearview mirror as though his father–the entire motive for him wanting to be there for his bastard child–is there judging him. He seethes at his imaginary patriarch that it’s the right thing to do, that it’s what he should have done for Ivan.
The confined space of the car is ideal for the walls metaphorically caving in on Locke as he sacrifices everything for a woman he barely knows and a son he has no real obligation to. Knight, no stranger to the dramatic genre with past films that include Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises, uses minimalist techniques to bring the script to an electrifying crescendo.