In Steven Knight's "Locke," a hardworking family man makes a moral choice that may ruin the life he so lovingly built. This 85-minute film features only one actor on screen, though others are heard, and unfolds almost entirely within the cabin of a moving car. There are brief opening images of a large construction site and two concrete-encrusted boots, but with the closing of the driver-side door, "Locke" begins.
Tom Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a construction foreman with an awful secret. A British actor in his mid-30s, Hardy ("Inception," "The Dark Knight Rises") isn't yet a major star but seems poised to become another Philip Seymour Hoffman or Joaquin Phoenix -- an actor whose gifts seem supernaturally bestowed. Still, you might be skeptical that any one performer could hold your attention for the length of a feature film. What's more, Hardy is seated throughout; you'll see only his top third at most.
All of which makes his mesmerizing, pitch-perfect performance the more astounding. "Locke" works as both a character study and a gripping drama as we piece together why this solid, loyal, good-hearted Welshman is driving away from everything he knows and loves. In his airtight BMW, Locke copes with the outer world via speakerphone: At home are a shell-shocked wife, Katrina (Ruth Wilson), and two puzzled boys, Eddie and Sean (Tom Holland and Bill Milner, respectively), while at work are a screaming boss, Gareth (Ben Daniels), and a panicked co-worker, Donal (Andrew Scott). At the end of Locke's journey is a woman, Bethan, played by Olivia Colman. (All, by the way, are excellent.) Another character, unseen, hovers in the rearview mirror: Locke's dead, despised father.
Shot in just eight nights using a car mounted with three cameras, "Locke" is a terrific example of resourceful, inventive filmmaking. It could have been a radio play, perhaps, but the visuals matter: The mundane images of taillights and road workers contrast with the emotional upheaval inside Locke's speeding vehicle. Above all, "Locke" is a chance to ride with a phenomenal actor who is in the driver's seat all the way.
PLOT A hardworking family man takes a drive in his BMW that may change his life forever.
RATING R (language)
CAST Tom Hardy
BOTTOM LINE A one-man tour-de-force from Hardy, who turns this small-scale drama into a gripping emotional journey.