Least he isn’t texting. Tom Hardy stars in Academy Award nominee Steven Knight’s Locke.

LockeCast of Characters:
Ivan Locke – Tom Hardy
Bethan – voiced by Olivia Coleman
Katrina Locke – voiced by Ruth Wilson
Donal – voiced by Andrew Scott
Gareth – voiced by Ben Daniels
Eddie Locke – voiced by Tom Holland
Sean Locke – voiced by Bill Milner

Director – Steven Knight
Screenplay – Steven Knight
Producer – Paul Webster & Guy Heely
Rated R for language throughout

The day before he’s set to supervise a massive concrete pour in Birmingham, England, construction foreman Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) gets in his car and decides to drive to take a drive. Certain decisions made in the past have determined this course of action, and certain choices he makes after, involving phone calls with his wife Katrina (voiced by Ruth Wilson), co-workers Donal (voiced by Andrew Scott) and Gareth (voiced by Ben Daniels) and a mystery gal named Bethan (voiced by Olivia Coleman) will determine his fate from here on out.

Locke’s a film I’ve been looking forward to see and after being out for almost two months now it’s finally made its way over into my area (thank you, Alamo Drafthouse). The storyline seems extremely thin, but I’ve purposefully left out a number of details that occur during Locke’s phone conversations. The trailer kept things under wraps for you, so I’ll do the same.

You only need one reason to see this film: Tom Hardy.

I already said this in my mid-year recap earlier this week, and I’ll say it again. 2014’s been a great year for the indie film.

Having previously starred in Bronson, Warrior, Inception, The Dark Knight Rises and Lawless,Tom Hardy has already proven himself to be quite the acting talent, but here he takes it to a whole new level, carrying this entire film on his back. From his measured delivery, his ability to somehow stay calm while those on the other end of the line are flipping out, to his sudden outbursts of rage, Hardy’s performance is nothing short of brilliantIt takes remarkable talent to captivate the viewer’s attention with something as simple as a man driving taking a series of phone calls. For all its stripped down simplicity, as the story progressed, I found myself wondering who’d call next, what choices would be made, and how Locke and (or) his callers would react. So far, I’ve only considered Ralph Fiennes for The Grand Budapest Hotel to be a frontrunner for Best Actor this year, and now we can add Hardy’s name to the list.

The supporting cast should also be noticed here. Be it Ruth Wilson as Locke’s worrying wife Katrina, Andrew Scott as his nervous underling (who provides some much-needed comic relief), or Olivia Coleman as his lonely co-worker, the remaining cast give much life and humanity to these characters, despite the fact that we never once see their faces. Their conversations come alive as if they’re actually facing Locke, even though they’re still separated by a phone call.

Writer/director Steven Knight has previously earned much-deserved acclaim for writing Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises (for which he received an Best Original Screenplay nomination for the former). Last year’s Redemption (his directorial debut) was a not horrible, but mediocre effort, which was disappointing ’cause it gave Jason Statham an always welcome rare break from his action roles that didn’t turn out as well as I would’ve liked. Here, in one confined location, Knight does so much with so little. From the creative use of shots to the way he has raindrops and traffic light reflections dance past Hardy’s face (terrific work from cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos), Locke is a much more beautifully looking film than you might expect. Yes, it’s a one-man show with Tom Hardy, and he owns every second of this film. However, for Knight to take what might appear lackluster on paper in what is essentially an 85 min. car ride with Bane and have us hooked and caught up in what’s gonna happen next or what decision is gonna be made that may make or break Locke’s future is a testament to his strong direction and dialogue.

I will say, and it’s a bit of a gripe toward the marketing than anything else, the trailers make the tone appear to be something it really isn’t. I do applaud them for getting your interest while leaving you still in the dark on key details, but they sorta make the film out to look more like a crime-thriller, which it’s not. I feel I should let you know that, without giving anything away, so you’re not thrown by what you actually end up seeing.

On its surface, Locke is a thin narrative driven by a one-man show, but underneath it lies a compelling character study of a seemingly calm man attempting to control the chaos bent on unraveling his life. Between Steven Knight’s minimalist yet powerful and smoothly paced direction, gripping dialogue and a riveting, career-best performance from Tom Hardy, Locke is one of the year’s best films. It’s proof that in talented hands, something small can turn out great.

I give Locke an A (★★★½).

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