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It’s a risk to limit a movie to one setting.  It’s an even bigger risk to limit a movie to only one actor on the screen, start to finish. But if you’re careful and you pay attention to details, these are the kinds of limitations that can bring a focus and sharpness to a project that elevates it to a work of art.

“Locke” is a work of art, and a thrilling, emotionally engaging movie. Aside from an establishing shot on a construction yard, the whole thing takes place inside a car, and the only actor onscreen is Tom Hardy. It’s a crime that Hardy wasn’t for a BAFTA award (the British equivalent of the Oscars); I haven’t seen most of the movies that were nominated, but it’s hard to imagine a better performance in a more demanding role than this one.

I don’t want to give too much away.  Suffice it to say that Hardy’s entire life threatens to unravel over the course of a two-hour car ride.  The has multiple phone conversations through his car’s bluetooth; with his wife, a desperate co-worker, and his boss, and another person. The film unravels its secrets at a leisurely pace, and I think you’ll have a better viewing experience if I don’t give away the details.  He is a careful man, with a lot of pride, trying hard to do the right thing by everybody. Except sometimes that just isn’t possible. You can’t be everywhere at once, and the choices are brutal. He has made a mistake, and is trying hard not to accept its consequences. It might end up ruining his life, but it will not change the kind of man he is.

The pace of “Locke” is perfect, and the way streetlights play off the dash and highlight Hardy’s face is reminiscent of Michael Mann; this is a film that makes digital video look good. A little more variation in the visuals seems like it could have been possible (the same two police cars go by with lights and sirens at least three times.  But then again, this might have taken away from the laser sharp focus on Locke’s face, which is the film’s great strength.

I wrote recently about how “Mr. Turner,” in refusing to limit itself in practically any way, becomes a boring, shapeless film.  “Locke” is just the opposite.  The two are a great study in contrasts, and a testament to how limiting yourself in certain ways can produce better, clearer, more compelling art.  “Locke” is one of the best movies of 2014.


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Posted in All Reviews, by Will Krischke.

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