I rarely root against a movie. Going in absolutely cold to see Locke was no exception. But after the first 10 or 15 minutes, when I realized this was going to be yet another single location chamber-drama (where we never leave the inside of a car), I started to cringe. What types of gimmicks would be on the road ahead to keep this premise interesting? How many angles could you possibly rig in that car? How long was I prepared to stare at Tom Hardy's face? Then, slowly but surely, my bias gave way to genuine emotional interest.
Nothing you did on a technical level sold me; I simply relished in how the suspense became realistic and relatable, rather than relying on music cues, camera movements and genre tropes.
In fact, I eventually stopped thinking about the location altogether. Good thing, because there were times I felt the story was better suited for a radio play. Thankfully, I didn't stick to this track, because then I would have missed your best work.
What I liked most, believe it or not, is that the cinematography doesn't try to overcompensate for a simple premise. That's not a backhanded compliment. You avoided setting up any extraneous cutaways or close-ups, sticking to natural (but slightly stylized) perspectives of just being a passenger in the car. While this might sound lazy, or just plain obvious, it actually takes a lot of confidence and restraint these days to lean so heavily on a single performer and the story. Luckily, Tom Hardy is one of the few actors who can carry this load, delivering his lines with disarming understatement and a soothing Welsh accent. As a construction manager who leaves his job to deal with a life-changing personal matter the night before a record-breaking build, he's forced to negotiate with many different parties over the phone and pinball between delicate emotional arcs.
To compensate for the lack of diverse visuals, writer and director Steven Knight relies on a boat load (car load?) of blunt metaphors to add dimension to the story. As a concrete specialist, the Ivan Locke character repeatedly details the importance of laying a strong foundation and how a single crack can lead to a total collapse. All this while the world as he knows it starts to crumble around him. There are more subtle efforts as well, such as the way he keeps rolling up his sleeves the deeper he gets into his own mess and the constant traffic reports reminding us of the elements that are out of his control. This last one is important because, unlike you and the rest of the audience who are "locked" in the car, Locke himself is actually making an active choice to make the 90-minute drive to London. This simple change from most entrapment films adds a layer of authenticity that makes his journey all the more empathetic.
So while it may have been a rather claustrophobic and exhausting shoot for you, I actually walked out of the theatre feeling refreshed and positively provoked. It also made for a hell of a drive home.