Drive, He Said
An unimaginative minimal surname title gives no idea how imaginative minimalist Locke is. Tom Hardy gives a spot on performance and Welsh accent, using no more than words accompanied by some few facial expressions in the near dark, in unpeeling the layers of one manís life.
Director-screenwriter Steven Knightís eighty minutes unrolls in real time, in the driverís seat of that manís car -- ďI got your message. Itíll be about an hour and a half.Ē Even more than unnoticed but also terrific cinema I Travel Because I Have To, I Come Back Because I Love You, this is a one-man show. The 2009 Brazilian gem gives its geologistís daylight views of minerals, scrubland and towns through smeary windshields and of bargirls, motel rooms and religious processions up close in the flesh, as Josť Renate talks to himself (and the viewer). This new British beauty looks not out but in at Ivan Lockeís (Hardy) bearded face as he talks via Bluetooth hands-free, to othersí disembodied voices. His night drive east from Bristol to London Croydon unfolds against peripheral windscreen-reflected and -refracted lights and motorway colors.
The building site manager leaves an enormous construction excavation, changes out of work boots and starts his journey to the Catholic clinic where a scared Bethan (voice of Olivia Colman) is about to give birth to their child. His face soon visible for the first time, he also starts the endless seamless calls and answers that make up the rest, the entirety, of the film on this journey to a place but as well into a manís character.
It is the eve of the concrete pour of his most important project ever, laying Europeís biggest foundation outside of military and nuclear power buildings. He has earned respect for nine yearsí service and meticulous personal attention to every detail, so this abrupt departure catches Donal (voice of Andrew Scott) off guard. The apparently younger assistant needs to be telephone-talked through the whole process and, given his nervousness verging on hysteria, cautioned not to hit the bottle.
Headquartered in Chicago, the company will trust the hero because of his track record, and because it has no choice at the moment, what with trucks already lining up to deliver. But Locke is putting his career on the line.
Family is another matter. He misses watching an important football match with elder son Eddie (Tom Hollandís voice). Wife Katrina (voiced by Ruth Wilson) is suspicious, less easy to put off by promises for tomorrow, and adamantly decisive when, contrary to his hurried planning, he must explain by phone why he will not be home until morning.
No cinema-suspense secret, the reason is given out early. On a business trip he had strayed for the first and only time in their marriage, a one-night stand with the lonely thirty-something woman for whom he has no feelings but to whose side he motors as fast as the speed limit allows. Locke is nothing if not responsible -- to family, employers and subordinates, his job, even to concrete itself -- and this dependable man has to decide where the new life just coming into the world fits among the priorities of his own life. Error or not, this is his doing, and the mother needs him at the birth and the baby needs his name.
The story is as compact as its low-budget, eight-night shoot. Publicity might be read to indicate that this is a thriller about a hasty decision and a resultant collapse. Rather, it is an uplifting tale, a vindication of the old, easily ridiculed ďa manís gotta do what a manís gotta do.Ē Skilled moviemaking and skilled acting here make unfashionable acceptance of responsibility admirable and, in a newbornís cry, even rewarding.
(Released by A24 Films and rated "R" for language throughout.)