VINE VOICEon 7 August 2014
From the opening titles setting up the night-time ahead and placing us in the spacious and luxurious BMW we will be driving in for the next 84 minutes with our man Tom Hardy, the mood is set and the tone is apparent. It’s quiet, moody and atmospheric and the doors lock to keep you in whether you like it or not. It’s these brilliant and daring films that take a situation so ordinary, so humane and perversely allow us sit and watch a small disaster unfurl before our eyes. We can’t deny as primates we are drawn to human conflict and drama and as we sit comfortably watching this story play out, we can’t help experience the tension, awkwardness and subtle warmth emanating through an event that probably happens more times than we know about to the ordinary man in the street. Only this time we are allowed to watch it happen. It’s car-crash cinema; you shouldn’t watch something bad happening, but you can’t help it.
Car-crash cinema here is used in the manner that the story explores a series of events slowly spiralling out of control through emotional conflict and dramatic conversation. As the magnificent Tom Hardy is the only focus for us to share the journey with, the supporting actors all play their characters via Bluetooth phone conversations in his car; we hear their voices and their plight, but never see them, and that works all the more for it because you can picture every shout, tear, laugh and scream they give in their surroundings. The best tool is the human mind to paint a picture, and from the material given you can picture everything you hear and it works far more effectively than if we were jumping between actors and locations.
This also is a plus, the fact we are with Ivan Locke during his journey and don’t get any breaks or respite; much like Locke. We experience all of his conversations during the journey and we can’t do anything except watch and listen. Hardy gives a performance like no-other here and shows just how fantastic and versatile an actor he is. I was lulled by his silky Welsh tones, his voice maintaining a hypnotic sense of calm, control and authority about it even under the immense emotional stress he faces from angry colleagues, a frightened mother-to-be, a distraught wife and scared son. Hardy may keep his voice calm and cool, but his physical acting is superb. Ranging from his natural way he fidgets over rolling his sleeves, dictating with his hands, playing with his beard or resting his head in his palm, all these little actions are things we have all done on long journeys and long phone calls. He is so natural in his acting; it really comes across as honest, real and very emotional. And he proves he can switch persona in a heartbeat during his inner monologues to his deceased father whom he talks to vent his anger and frustration. It’s the only time we see real emotion bubbling away before the ringing phone brings him back to reality in a flash.
And as many state in reviews, the co-star of the BMW is used perfectly and the location of the long, monotonous British motorways lull us along into a journey that evokes a feeling of an endless, automated dream-like state as all we hear besides the conversations inside the car are passing motors, police sirens and horns. There is never a feeling of claustrophobia being set inside a car, because the camera shots are used so effectively we see plenty of Locke himself during conversation and his surroundings that serve as his only distraction. We are never boxed in, and tight shots are used only to focus on important objects and features of the car and Locke himself. It’s been thought out carefully to give us a very comfortable experience to watch and allows us solely to focus on the drama happening inside the car rather than be distracted by what we see on screen too often.
Marketing the film as a thriller was the wrong move to make as people, as I did, would go into this expecting one of those films that use the nerve-shredding music to highlight a tense situation, or come to expect an escalating desperation and madness to the lead character and maybe a sense of blackmail, death or action as a plot device like kidnap or some illegal activity. None of this are found here and I actually found it refreshing to be a little disappointed. Why did I want to see something I was expecting from the initial idea? This is a drama, plain and simple. Regardless of how it plays out, it’s a drama exploring the human soul and what steps ordinary people take in times of desperation and fear to try and make a bad situation right as best they can. There is no ticking time bomb, no ransom demands and no chasing police…just a man with symptoms of a cold, his nice car and his phonebook.
Watch this film with 100% attention in a quiet, dark room to immerse yourself in the atmosphere presented to you and sit back and let Hardy and director Knight take you on a journey you’ll be glad you were part of. They will even allow you to decide which direction Locke’s life takes in the open-ending, depending on what you want to believe in a real world where not every action has happy endings.