Hopefully this will be a new, recurring feature - but, for now, I had some thoughts about Steven Knight's Locke (2013). It's an interesting movie that never once faltered in keeping my attention, despite it being, like Buried (2010), a one-man show about a man and his phone, as he drives along the highway. Definitely a must see, especially if you love Tom Hardy as I do.
This should go without saying, but there will be spoilers!
At the end of Locke, you're left with swelling music and a pan away from the vehicle we've just spent the last 80+ minutes in, essentially eavesdropping on this man's life as it spirals out of his control. There's a positivity to the music, something that says that this is a turning point, something to be happy about . . . that this can be a new beginning for this man. But I'm not so sure about that. As you often find with movies, the music is too in-your-face and wanting you to feel a certain way, despite what the evidence is telling you.
Locke is about Ivan Locke, a man we only see in his vehicle, driving down the freeway as he makes a split-second decision that utterly destroys his life. We only spend time in the car and on the highway (the camera turning away from the car), but there is no big action set piece, despite this being labeled as a thriller. This is a drama about what happens when a man of convictions follows through and what happens because of that.
If you've read this far, I'm going to assume you've watched Locke. The central conflict here is that Locke had a one-night stand with a woman out of wedlock and she's having his child. He is crossing the country to be there for the child's birth. As a result of this, he loses his wife, his family, and his job. All for a woman he does not know. He is looking for the best possible outcome out of a bad situation - a practical decision. He tells his wife and hopes that he'll be able to come home. He flat out tells the woman in labor that he does not love her and does not know her. He is a pragmatist and, even when he's fired, he completely understands and tells the person that he will still finish the job correctly, even instructing the employee on how to do everything (and not to answer the phone from the bigwigs).
For me, the most interesting thing about this all is that he does not care for this woman. But he does not want his (illegitimate) son to not have a father present at the birth. He is not going there to live with the woman, not to even raise the kid - he is going so he can give the kid his name and make sure the son knows the truth, so to speak. And, as a result, he loses everything he loves and cares about, because he is doing the right thing in an awful situation.
Even as his life spirals out of control, he continues forward, never faltering, never questioning himself. He does have a self-deprecating "showdown" with his father, a character who is not in the car with him nor ever appears. It's obvious that Locke has demons of his own that he is battling. We can only make assumptions of what his childhood must've been like, but it's turned him into a determined individual who will do what's right, even if it destroys him.
That's not to say he's perfect or a saint. He waited until the last possible moment to tell his wife, but he does explain everything with such sincerity that I can't help but believe the words coming from him. It was an odd day. He'd just completed a big project. And he felt sorry for this woman. After they had sex, even the woman was sad. Even though he never says it, I can't help but conjure images of a shrew, who let life pass her by, and the two just connected, in whatever small way. He does not love her, he doesn't really care for her, other than to console her as the pain has set in, but even then he is truthful and does not let sympathy make him say something that he does not believe in. One of my favorite early lines was "How could I love you?" which he's then hung up on. It makes him seem cold, callous. What we later find is that they only met that once and he has no idea who she is other than the facts he gathered from their one night stand.
As the movie presses on, he is forced into multiple confrontations with his job, his wife, and trying to communicate with his kids without embroiling them in the conflict with their mother. It a tight-rope act that doesn't need the additional gimmicks that you'd find in most modern "thrillers." He never runs into traffic, there's no sniper . . . admittedly there's a ticking bomb when it comes to his (now lost) job, but that's more that people are off the job and he has to get in contact with them before the next day. If it waits until morning, it'll be too late to complete his one last project. And we get to see Tom Hardy degenerate as all this takes its toll on his character.
If it isn't obvious, the thing that truly hit me about this movie is that he doesn't falter. The only time we see him stop, once he's on his journey, is near the end of the film. And, even then, he is not contemplating turning around, but we hear the baby and he's asked "Will you come?" and he answers "Yes." As if we hadn't been told that over and over again, but the character who was asking never seemed to believe it. It's a shame that he had to sacrifice so much to go to a woman who doesn't know him and he doesn't care for, but at the same time, it gives him the ability to move forward.
This is where the film's score gives its biggest lie. It infers that he will stay, that this is his new beginning. Everything the character has stated, however, is that this is a pit stop - something he had to do to do the "right thing" and that he completely expects to head home, even when that option is cut off for him. There is no happy ending for Ivan Locke. But he is a man of his convictions and he needed to make up for his faults in some way and this was the best way he could do it.
I hope all of us can live up to that sort of standard when we falter as well.
Locke is available through Amazon Prime Instant Video.