That is a night of a lifetime. Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) is a builder, a very good one because it seems that he is the only one trusted by his company to handle a big project the very next day. But that night, he has to drive away. Not to his house, where his beloved wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson, voice) and grownup kids are waiting for him to watch an anticipated soccer match (they love soccer—and they are British, that's why). Not to his office, where he is about to leave because he refuses to take responsibility of the next day's big project—which is used to be his awaited job.
He is driving to a hospital, somewhere in London, to accompany a woman called Bethan (Olivia Colman, voice) giving birth to his baby. We are given a sense that their affair was accidental, but Ivan is man enough to take care of his newborn baby—which undoubtedly will damage his current lovely marriage. And his boss and workmates are keeping calling him to talk about his left project. That is one hell of a night for Ivan: everything comes attacking him while he was sitting, driving his car. It's only the street lights and cars reflecting on his face all his way.
I love simplicity. In this case, I love how Steven Knight, the writer and director of the film, makes the best of the minimum aspects he has for his small project. There's only this BMW with call connectivity, and there's this family man that talks about how to handle the concrete while his marriage is about to crash. I love how Steven Knight focuses on the titular character and slashes every piece of emotion out of him. He knows that there is a big power of his created character, only if he knows how to bring it all out.
More than just a fucked-up night, this is a portrait of a man dealing with the many characters he falls into in his life: a husband, a father, a working man, a bro, a lusty male. This is a portrait of how one (and I'm being specific here: a man) deals with every factor that affects how he behaves and how he becomes himself the way he is. LOCKE shows me that, well, everybody is fucked up sometimes, but when it relates to the nature of a specific gender, things are getting more interesting.
There are layers to dig, especially those concerning personalities of a man; about how he grows becoming someone because of the way his parent (his dad, specifically) grew him. We used to believe that 99% of men use their logic more than their emotion (while the rest 1% are the opposite), and LOCKE shows that, well, it is not an absolute thing. It can be either true or false depending on the case the man is facing. We are shown how men act based on their logic to deal with different situation instead of pouring emotion from one situation into other situations, although when life hits them hard, they can get so vulnerable that a person can tell even from the way they speak on the phone.
Tom Hardy is the motor. LOCKE is set for him and him only, even cold scenes are added to the script just to adapt with Tom who was getting cold while shooting. It is a real challenge, how you act by only talking while driving and get the best acting you can get. And Tom totally nailed it. It is marvelous, tour de force. Enthralling. He is the one that defines originality to the plot-driven film. He gives a persona of a good man, a good father, a loving husband, a nice friend, and a dedicated professional, all in one. I can't imagine any actors could portray Ivan Locke better than him.
The only thumb-down (if only I could call it a thumb-down) is on how everything ends. It's all like so plot-driven but suddenly until the last five minutes I made up my mind, thinking that yep, this is all more like a description of a man's state of mind. This might be a precaution for you, especially if you expect a solving ending after a series of long semi-excruciating emotional conflicts, to re-think that this is more like an in-depth look of a character. Again, that is not necessarily a bad thing. I was not really troubled by it anyway.
In BURIED, Ryan Reynolds was the only appearing actor. Colin Farrell in PHONE BOOTH is almost the same. Compared to the two, LOCKE is like a more dramatic take on a one-actor show. I'm not calling it a nail-biting, riveting thriller whatsoever because I like it more as a personality study of a man. Tom Hardy is the best choice to run the machine. This is probably not an award-winning performance, but driven by a well-made script from a qualified filmmaker, Tom Hardy shows that he is the shining star.