(Steven Knight, 2013)
Locke is based around such a simple premise that the execution has to be more or less perfect or else it fails utterly.
Tom Hardy is Ivan Locke, a foreman on a massive Birmingham building project who is driving down the M6 to London at night in order to be with a woman (Olivia Coleman) who is about to have his baby. While he drives he makes and takes a series of Bluetooth phone calls. It emerges that the baby is the product of a one-night stand and Locke barely knows the woman. He is leaving his project the night before a massive and massively important concrete pour, possibly jeopardising a $100 Million operation by leaving it in the hands of Donal (Andrew Scott), and virtually guaranteeing his own dismissal.
His wife and two sons are waiting for him to come home and watch football with them, but events force his hand, and by the time he reaches London, he hopes to have settled everything, both professional and personal.
Hardy is the only actor we see, sat behind the wheel of his BMW for most of this film, the others just a series of evocative voices on the other end of the line. He is strapped in, which helps, somehow, forcing us and Knight to focus upon his face and head, and guaranteeing that every tic and slightest expression has a seismic impact. Hardy is sensational here, portraying a good, principled man as he rapidly watches his life fall apart, all because of one mistake. We watch as his Locke goes from efficiency to despair, and Hardy sells it all. This is an intimate, precise study of this man, and much of the credit for that should go to the leading man.
Knight plays his part too, ensuring that Locke remains surprisingly, impressively cinematic throughout. The constant funnel of light that is the motorway is frequently beautiful, and Knight shoots Hardy from a variety of angles, colour and shadow passing across his face in lovely washes.
And it all works; works so well that what is essentially a small-scale family drama has accrued the level of tension and suspense more commonly experienced with a thriller. A giant step forward for Knight from Hummingbird, and further evidence that Hardy is currently one of our greatest screen actors.