Describing Locke as a one-man show is misleading; yes, Tom Hardy as titular protagonist Ivan Locke is the only actor on screen throughout, but this is not some experimental, Manakamana-esque piece of cinéma vérité where we stare into Hardy’s handsome visage for ninety wordless minutes as he drives from point A to point B. Instead, we listen to him drive, conducting heated arguments and tense exchanges with, variously, his wife, one-time mistress and co-workers. It’s closer to a thriller than anything meditative.
Writer/director Steven Knight commands your interest throughout despite his obvious limitations (thanks in large part to Hardy’s unostentatious, effective performance). It’s not the most visually interesting film – there’s only so many ways you can film within a car, and Knight tries all of them – but that’s not intended to be a slight; this is a film about the script, first and foremost. Said script is good, but not perfect, overreaching with its metaphors and unnecessarily including an imagined ‘dark passenger’ (Locke’s father). But it’s engrossing and engaging while also inviting a robust feminist reading, as Locke demonstrates how trying to live up to patriarchal ideals and establish a ‘legacy’ can be as harmful for men as for women.