LOCKE. Tom Hardy in a film that pinches in the best way

Give Hardy one eyebrow, and he’ll play sadness with it; give him two eyebrows, and he’ll play sadness turning into amusement.

Jakub Koisz

6 January 2024

This is how it is – a guy is driving and talking on the phone. Nothing explodes except for emotions, nothing sparks except for a few curses flying out of his mouth. One guy, one car, a road, lights, and a phone. Perhaps nothing new; after all, they buried Ryan Reynolds a few years ago in “Buried,” gave him a cell phone, and told the audience to sit in the coffin, watching a one-actor show. Buried Reynolds is a better Reynolds, but if you’re going to confine me in a tight box next to some actor, let it be Tom Hardy.

In Steven Knight’s “Locke,” we observe a very down-to-earth problem, unusual because the scale of drama is significant but still down-to-earth. Ivan Locke is an everyman; the only thing that sets him apart is the stakes of a professional problem – he is a construction manager overseeing the final details of the largest construction project in Europe. A project costing millions of dollars. Hectoliters of concrete and one person who couldn’t care less at the moment. Something else is troubling him, though the second problem has a micro dimension. Family. Love. However, Knight skillfully juggles phone conversations, relying on Tom Hardy’s acting skills, so that these tons of concrete and possessed discussions with his boss become small in the face of personal matters. We learn about everything that defines Locke as a father, husband, employee, and also – yes! – a son during the two-hour drive from Birmingham to London.


“Locke” is uncomfortable. Uncomfortable in the best way, and thanks to the quick exposition of the character, we know him more or less halfway through the journey like we know ourselves. The mentioned discomfort is a shared experience, for Locke, for us. So, I’m not sitting in a movie theater anymore; the average-quality seats are turning into soft BMW seats, and I reach into the cup holders, wanting to turn on the turn signal. I haven’t felt such immersion with the main character’s world in a long time, although theoretically, I can’t identify with any of his troubles; I don’t manage a large business project, nor do I worry about revealing an important secret to my family. Perhaps I identify with only one aspect of Locke’s personality, but anyone who has ever felt like they’re losing ground beneath them will probably catch that. Locke is a perfectionist, an unyielding concrete to which many things reach the viewer’s eyes. We see a snippet from the culmination of his story, so well outlined in the dialogues. The recurring metaphor of cracked concrete is him – theoretically untouched, but when the crack in the supporting material grows, the structure must eventually collapse. I don’t want to spoil the fun of getting to know his personality, but I think the hints of DDA (Dissociative Identity Disorder) and unresolved childhood demons are accurate.

About Hardy. I remember that despite various reviews after “The Dark Knight Rises,” no one dared to question that this actor, even when wearing a muzzle half over his face, could express more with his eyes than the entire cast of “Time of Honor.” Give Hardy one eyebrow, and he’ll play sadness with it; give him two eyebrows, and he’ll play sadness turning into amusement. If you’re kind enough to let him speak, he’ll show you what real emotions in acting are. Of course, I see many faces here that could be in Tom’s place, but this choice seems to be the best. The coherence and freshness of this role are positively surprising, considering that the actor has recently played iconic roles. There’s no icon here. There’s a man of flesh and blood. And only him, because we don’t even bother with the roles of the “voices” from the headphones, which, though they seem real, only become close to the viewer in confrontation with Hardy.

That was a short review. The film is well-edited, has beautiful shots, pulsating music, blah, blah, blah… It’s also a review in which I could write only that I liked it because “Locke” is just such an evening ride with friends. Adequate music, good conversations, there’s even a funny thread about Poles in the UK, we feel friendly, but describing the magic of such a trip is impossible. And even though the film drags a bit at the beginning of the third act, it was a good journey. Real.