DON'T EVEN DREAM about getting out of the car. Locke, written and directed by Steven Knight—who's better known for his writing credits, including Eastern Promises and Dirty Pretty Things, and rather new to directing—takes place entirely inside the BMW of one Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy). Considering its self-imposed limitations—85 minutes of a man talking on a car phone—Locke, and more specifically Hardy, does remarkably well. But it also feels like filmmaking as a stage-y, athletic feat, and the viewing experience falls closer to frustration than enjoyment.
Through unrelenting phone calls (Locke doubles as a commercial for the hands-free system), we learn that our protagonist's life is unraveling. Locke's about to become the father of a child he hasn't told his wife about, and being there for the birth involves bailing last-minute on the concrete pour for a huge skyscraper he's supposed to oversee. He also has an axe to grind with his dead father, who he appears to believe is riding in the backseat—and he has a cold.
I'm quite sure that pouring concrete is an intricate affair, but the apoplexy between Locke and his colleagues over mysterious numbers and... concrete thingies is a strain to relate to. And while most voice-only characters (super-pissed wife, super-pissed boss) are easy to get a handle on, the poor woman in labor is an enigma, and not a flattering one. We gather she's an agoraphobic spinster who's so frail and needy that she can't figure out how to pee in a hospital without 10 minutes of whimpering... and we're supposed to believe she bagged Tom Hardy?
That Locke takes on so many handicaps (why so many handicaps, Steven?!) and doesn't bomb is miraculous. I bet a film with some changes of scenery—just one goddamn change of scenery—would be so much better, though.