dir-scr Steven Knight
prd Guy Heeley, Paul Webster
with Tom Hardy, Ruth Wilson, Olivia Colman, Andrew Scott, Tom Holland, Bill Milner, Ben Daniels, Danny Webb, Alice Lowe, Silas Carson, Lee Ross, Kirsty Dillon
release UK 18.Apr.14
13/UK 1h25
Drive: Hardy

colman holland milner
london film fest
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Locke Essentially a one man show, this pseudo-thriller explores the fallout from a single moment of weakness as our hero tries to salvage his marriage, family and career. The pushy set-up is a little hard to believe, but the film is held together by a terrific performance from Hardy as an essentially good guy who has reached his personal Armageddon.

On the evening before he's due to oversee the biggest concrete pour in Europe, building foreman Ivan Locke (Hardy) calmly gets in his car and begins the 90-minute drive to London. He calls his sons (voiced by Holland and Milner) to say he won't be home to watch the big game, then struggles to explain to his wife (Wilson) that he's on his way to help a fragile middle-aged woman (Colman) give birth to his child, conceived at a drunken party. Meanwhile he's also coaching his panicky second in command (Scott) through tomorrow's momentous project.

In Hardy's eyes and his expressive, randomly Welsh-accented voice, we know that Ivan understands the stakes: he's likely to lose both his job and his family. But he feels a sense of responsibility to this terrified woman he never loved and the baby she's about to deliver. To help us understand why he chooses them, writer-director Knight adds plenty of soul-searching as Ivan confronts the imaginary presence of his flawed father. And the heavy-handed irony is that Ivan is so determined to do the right thing that he might end up alone and hated just like his dad.

Yes, it's a bit much, especially as the incessant phone calls get progressively emotional. But Hardy coolly holds it all together with a transparent, even-handed performance. Efficiently solving problems while calming down the expectant mother are things he's used to in his work; confronting his own failings and the potential ramifications is another thing altogether. Especially for a man known for never screwing anything up. So his conversations with his sons offer the strongest resonance.

Knight varies the visuals with glossy nighttime cinematography catching headlamps glistening off shiny glass and metal. But the script's nasty hints of moralising and misogyny are hard to take. So we look for signs in Hardy's face of how Ivan is truly coping with what's happening to his life. Thankfully Knight eases up at the end with a final moment that leaves the themes hanging in the air.

cert 15 themes, language 16.Oct.13 lff

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