Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sundance ’14: Locke

This film would not have been possible twenty-five years ago. Without the advent of cell phones, a long dark night of the soul spent on England’s motorways would not offer much drama.  Fortunately, Ivan Locke is a plugged-in guy, but he will suffer through a series of uncomfortable calls in Steven Knight’s Locke (clip here), which screens during this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

Locke is a construction supervisor who takes pride in doing things the right way.  However, he has made a mistake that will be hard to put right. Acknowledging his responsibility, Locke is driving to London, where a woman who is not his wife will soon enter into labor. This is a really bad time for it. In addition to fielding tough questions from his wife and their two sons, Locke is expected to oversee the pouring of the concrete foundation for a major new high rise. Having gone AWOL, Locke is pretty much fired, but he is determined to guide his loyal subordinate Donal through the process, for the sake of the project. Of course, complications arise, at the work site, the hospital, and the home front.

If nothing else, Locke should go down in history as the definitive film on the intricacies of concrete construction techniques.  It really is educational. Happily, it also has Tom Hardy, putting on an acting clinic behind the wheel of Locke’s BMW.  He goes through a full spectrum of emotions, but he never indulgences in cheap Streepian histrionics.  This is a performance that pulls viewers into the man’s psyche, rather than obsessing over ticks and twitches.

Even though Locke is essentially a one man show, Hardy gets some nice assists from a talented voice cast literally phoning in their supporting turn.  Andrew Scott (Moriarty in the BBC-PBS Sherlock) is a particular stand out as Donal, often delivering some welcome and effective comic relief.

Best known as the Oscar nominated screenwriter of Dirty Pretty Things, Knight deserved considerably more attention for his directorial debut, Redemption, starring a misty-eyed Jason Statham.  Clearly, he has an affinity for noirish tales of nocturnal angst and desperation. Indeed, Knight’s execution is surprisingly stylish, never feeling stagey or contrived.  In fact, there is something rather hypnotic about the constant play of head lights and reflections captured by cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos’s three mounted digital cameras.  Deceptively simple, Locke is a film of considerable depth and integrity of character.  Recommended for general audiences, it screens again tomorrow (1/19), Friday (1/24), and Saturday (1/25) in Park City, as well as Thursday (1/23) in Salt Lake, as part of the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.