Stephen Knight's Locke is an intriguing stunt of a film, filled to the brim with dramatic tension as one man in one car in near-real-time puts out all kinds of fires, fending off his boss while attempting to reconcile with his wife and kids on speakerphone, on his way to be present for the birth of an illegitimate son, all while battling some inner demons. It's the kind of totally ambitious cinematic experiment that I crave... And I wish I could say I loved it.
Unfortunately there's only so much that can be done with this premise, but in the end it just doesn't feel like enough. Tom Hardy plays the titular character, and he's very effective in managing the level of stress that we feel while watching him. But again, in the end there's only so much that one man can depict while sitting behind the wheel of a car with the audience seeing essentially just the shoulders up for 90 minutes. Locke plays like a vignette from the domestic drama version of TV's 24, with Hardy shifting from intense crisis to other equally intense crisis while driving really fast on the highway. It's great in the moment, when you're looking close-up, straight-in at a man agonizing over a life-ruining mistake, but taking a step back reveals that it's not necessarily enough to sustain a feature film, especially considering that its conceit forces Knight to completely neglect that which arguably makes a film a film: visuals.
It's a real shame that Locke doesn't quite work, because the writing is superb. Knight and Hardy are able to present a complex portrait of a man struggling to do what he feels is right. It would have made for brilliant radio theater, but as a film, the limitations of the premise are just a little bit too much to overcome. But still... It was daring, and we should always be up for a dare at the movies.