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Locke (2013)

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As an admirer of Steven Knight's screenwriting, I'm very intrigued by this:

From the time Locke was first announced in Berlin, to its first public screenings here inVenice, much had been kept under wraps about the project. But all was revealed today, and judging by the sustained applause and hoots and hollers for star Tom Hardy, most folks felt it was worth the wait. You could say Locke is about a man in a car, driving from Birmingham to London, while dealing with a series of issues on speaker phone. It would be true, but not accurate. It’s much more than that: part thriller, part psychological study, part family drama – and all with only one actor seen on screen. The movie, however, is not in competition so is not up for the major prizes – which many are lamenting. It next heads to Toronto, where IM Global will be looking to close deals. Its specialty label, Anthem, fully financed the Shoebox Films production and Lionsgate has UK rights.

 

British director Steven Knight, whose last film, Hummingbird (Redemptionin the U.S.), was his feature debut, wrote and directed Locke. His writing credits include Eastern Promises andDirty Pretty Things, for which he was Oscar nominated in 2004. He said today that prior to writing Locke, he’d been shooting another digital film with a car at night and it looked so good that he “wondered if there was a story you could weave of one man’s journey as he drove down a motorway. I was trying to bring a huge emotion down into a tiny space.” The movie, incidentally, is in real-time.

 

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Jeffrey Wells says: "We’re only three months into 2014 but Locke is easily one of the best films I’ve seen thus far, and I’m including Captain America: The Winter Soldier and those eight Sundance films that I admired." A full review follows.

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Locke was supposed to open in D.C. tomorrow but was mysteriously pushed back another week, to 5/9, just a few days ago, after it had screened for critics.

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I quite enjoyed David Ehrlich's review at The Dissolve, especially his throwaway line about Hardy's accent: "a needless Welsh accent that makes his voice sound like Mrs. Doubtfire being filtered through the Bane mask." I didn't have a problem with the accent in the trailers, but now I can't help but think of that description when I hear it. Regardless, I'm quite looking forward to the film, although I'm wondering if all the glowing praise from critics is skewing my expectations.

 

 

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I don't know if the reason Locke decides not to go home constitutes a spoiler, but I danced around it in my own review and have appreciated the other reviews I've seen that leave it mysterious. The film spells out that detail fairly early -- there's no last-second reveal in that sense -- but I'm glad I didn't know about it going in and am inclined to think viewers are supposed to be in the dark about it until the movie lets them in on that secret -- not fully aware of it ahead of time because they've read the Dissolve review (or others).

Edited by Christian

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This is a remarkable film, though perhaps closer to a stage play than a film given that the entire thing is one guy in a car.

 

The story is complex and brimming with moral significance.  But the for me, the great takeaway is that Tom Hardy is probably the best young actor in the world.

 

 

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Scott, I tweeted this question at you but would be interested in hearing you flesh it out here: What's the moral significance?

 

I don't mean to sound like I have no idea. Obviously, Locke is dealing with the ramifications of an earlier decision, one he dubs a "failure." But my interest in the film is driven to some extent by something most of the reviews I've read don't see, and which Knight himself stopped short of exploring in a post-screening Q&A. In that Q&A, Knight said Locke decides early to "tell the truth." "He won't go home and lie," Knight said. That decision is made in the film's opening moments, and from there, Knight said, Locke sticks to the truth.

 

Which is fine. I like that. My question/concern is how do you reveal the truth to others? In other words, are we to applaud Locke for being truthful? Sure, I guess. When the option is to lie, the truth is the only morally acceptable choice. But how one conveys that truth -- how quickly, how forcefully, how possibly unconcerned with the fallout -- seems relevant, and the film doesn't/can't go into that beyond its confined run time. But it's an important question. I got the sense that Knight wants us to admire Locke's truthfulness, and I did -- but with reservations about the impact on his loved ones.

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This film expanded to D.C. today. I'm not sure how widely it's playing, but I'd love to hear from others here who have seen it. 

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Scott, I tweeted this question at you but would be interested in hearing you flesh it out here: What's the moral significance?

 

I don't mean to sound like I have no idea. Obviously, Locke is dealing with the ramifications of an earlier decision, one he dubs a "failure." But my interest in the film is driven to some extent by something most of the reviews I've read don't see, and which Knight himself stopped short of exploring in a post-screening Q&A. In that Q&A, Knight said Locke decides early to "tell the truth." "He won't go home and lie," Knight said. That decision is made in the film's opening moments, and from there, Knight said, Locke sticks to the truth.

 

Which is fine. I like that. My question/concern is how do you reveal the truth to others? In other words, are we to applaud Locke for being truthful? Sure, I guess. When the option is to lie, the truth is the only morally acceptable choice. But how one conveys that truth -- how quickly, how forcefully, how possibly unconcerned with the fallout -- seems relevant, and the film doesn't/can't go into that beyond its confined run time. But it's an important question. I got the sense that Knight wants us to admire Locke's truthfulness, and I did -- but with reservations about the impact on his loved ones.

Locke never wanted or intended to tell his family in the manner that he did - he was forced to do it by the early birth of the baby. The moral significance is two-fold for me: 1) The amount of devastation that a single mistake can make in ones life, and 2) The level to which Locke is willing to pay for that mistake...specifically, that he was choosing from the day of its birth to make the child a supreme priority. 

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This film expanded to D.C. today. I'm not sure how widely it's playing, but I'd love to hear from others here who have seen it. 

 

Since you asked, here you go

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: The movie, incidentally, is in real-time.

 

Uh, no. The film runs only 80-odd minutes, and there's a point in the film when he says he's been on the road for two hours. That's not the only piece of evidence I could point to (e.g., what's so "real-time" about voice-over dialogue in shots where Locke clearly isn't speaking?), but it's the clearest.

 

Glad I went into this film knowing almost nothing about it. The way it parcels out the information in the first half-hour (can I call it the first "act"?) is quite good.

 

Interesting how often people refer to Locke as a "solid" guy, and how Locke himself says he has to be "solid" for his family and/or offspring -- and of course Locke works in construction, where it counts very much that you get a building right from the very start, and he spends much of the film trying to ensure that concrete will be poured properly (that the concrete will be "solid", you might say).

 

Also love the repeated emphasis on "practical steps", "fixing" things, and the way Locke feels he has "straightened out" the family name.

 

I'm afraid I still can't watch Tom Hardy in anything without remembering how he played Patrick Stewart's clone in Star Trek: Nemesis, though. Which is fine, because he does some excellent work here.

 

Scott Derrickson wrote:
: But the for me, the great takeaway is that Tom Hardy is probably the best young actor in the world.

 

Hmmm... and if memory serves, you once said Rooney Mara was the best (young) actress working right now... can't wait to see your reaction if the two of them ever make a film together. :)

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True story: on my way to see Locke, I was pulled over for speeding for the first time ever. For the remainder of the drive, I tried to keep to the speed limit - but what can you do with that ten-mile stretch of road that seems perpetually under construction, where the speed limit is so out of touch with the way traffic actually flows that you can go ten over and still have an impatient driver tailgating you?

 

I like watching the way people drive in movies - how fast they go, how they sit, how they hold the wheel, etc. Sometimes, the frequency with which their eyes flicker to the rearview mirror is an index of how cautious they are. (I'm talking only about normal driving, not car chases, etc.) I liked how Locke used the rearview mirror unconventionally: Locke used it to look into the past he was fleeing from, in the form of the imagined paternal interlocutor in the back seat. Nevertheless, Locke is a cautious driver, sticking closely to the speed limit (probably going a steady 80 KPH the whole time, as per the early speedometer shot) and repeatedly explaining that he can only go "as fast as the traffic will allow".

 

In fact, he's probably the kind of driver that would stay strictly within the speed limit even in a place like the one I mentioned above, where the posted limit is 40 MPH and everyone goes 55. At a certain point, in a situation like that, slowness becomes more daring than speed and following the law is what best shows the power of the individual will. You need an iron mind to be a traffic deontologist. But we know that Locke has an iron mind, as his unwavering veracity proves, so he can drive any way he chooses - more or less. He can still freak out a little behind the wheel, even if this doesn't affect the motion of the car. He can also finally refuse to answer the phone, when he finally reaches a point - with his younger son - when telling the truth would be too hard.

 

I left the theater around midnight and carefully drove home, noticing the play of lights and shadows moving across the dashboard. It was fascinating.

Edited by Rushmore

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*** MILD SPOILERS ***

 

The more I think about this film, the more I find myself thinking less about "morality" and more about Greek tragedy, and how the desire to do something good can lead to self-destruction.

 

I wonder, for example, if it's right to look at Locke's emphasis on truth-telling etc. as a *moral* thing rather than as a *principled* thing, recognizing that following certain principles as doggedly as Locke does might not always be the best thing.

 

The film makes it clear that Locke is driven by his contempt for the way his father wasn't there for *him* when he was younger, and that much of his emphasis on being "solid" and reliable comes from his determination to "straighten" the family name. While his emotions are certainly understandable, I don't know that they provide the soundest basis for his decision-making.

 

I have no idea what I would do in Locke's situation, but I do find myself thinking about his determination to name his illegitimate son "Locke", even though he has zero interest in the mother. A friend of mine once shocked us all by leaving his family (and the country) for a woman that was pregnant with his kid, and his wife didn't take off her wedding ring until after the child was born *and given the father's surname*. The situation was different from Locke's in a number of ways, but still: insisting that your illegitimate child bear your name -- *especially* if you say you have no interest in the mother -- sends a signal. Especially to a wife. And I don't know if Locke, for all his talk of "practical next steps", had really thought through that.

 

More thoughts later, maybe.

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I quite enjoyed David Ehrlich's review at The Dissolve, especially his throwaway line about Hardy's accent: "a needless Welsh accent that makes his voice sound like Mrs. Doubtfire being filtered through the Bane mask." I didn't have a problem with the accent in the trailers, but now I can't help but think of that description when I hear it.

Interesting because, instead of a Welsh accent, during the film I kept feeling like Hardy might be doing a Richard Harris impression. But it wasn't distracting, instead I think the accent somehow worked well with his being calm and reassuring to everyone.

 

Locke never wanted or intended to tell his family in the manner that he did - he was forced to do it by the early birth of the baby. The moral significance is two-fold for me: 1) The amount of devastation that a single mistake can make in ones life, and 2) The level to which Locke is willing to pay for that mistake...specifically, that he was choosing from the day of its birth to make the child a supreme priority.

Absolutely. The film's strength is in how it wrestles with whether problems can be "fixed" by doing the right thing. It makes the viewer ask if there is such a thing moral, spiritual or relational damage that is simply beyond repair and then contrasts that question with the story of a man who has resolved to do what he believes is morally right no matter how much it hurts. While you are watching it, you get the Greek tragedy sense that Locke is fated (or has condemned himself) onto a path that is inevitably leading to disaster - but then you are forced to reconsider this in light of Locke's constant and determined resolve (and strength of will) to make things right.

 

Interesting how often people refer to Locke as a "solid" guy, and how Locke himself says he has to be "solid" for his family and/or offspring -- and of course Locke works in construction, where it counts very much that you get a building right from the very start, and he spends much of the film trying to ensure that concrete will be poured properly (that the concrete will be "solid", you might say).

 

Also love the repeated emphasis on "practical steps", "fixing" things, and the way Locke feels he has "straightened out" the family name.

I don't know when the last time I saw a film was when such obvious metaphors, symbolism and allegories were played with constantly and interchangeably. The distinction between literal and metaphorical almost doesn't exist for Locke. His interior life and exterior life are so intertwined that what would be metaphorical for someone else could almost be literal for him (and vice versa). You couldn't even really claim that they way that he works determines the way that he thinks or the other way round, because his character is so consistent.

 

Since you asked, here you go.

"... Conversely, though, I’ve long argued that post-Enlightenment Christians have feared fallen emotions (and imagination) too much and fallen reason too little. And if that sounds a little too academic, well, I don’t think Ivan’s last name (and the film’s title) is a coincidence ..."

Nice catch. Oh man, that is another review/essay I would love to write if I only had the time, which I don't at the moment.

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J.A.A. Purves wrote:
: While you are watching it, you get the Greek tragedy sense that Locke is fated (or has condemned himself) onto a path that is inevitably leading to disaster - but then you are forced to reconsider this in light of Locke's constant and determined resolve (and strength of will) to make things right.

 

Since you mentioned the Greeks ... where you see "constant and determined resolve", could not one see hubris? Is not that constant and determined resolve the very "tragic flaw" that has fated him to this path?

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Since you mentioned the Greeks ... where you see "constant and determined resolve", could not one see hubris? Is not that constant and determined resolve the very "tragic flaw" that has fated him to this path?

It would not be unreasonable to argue that it was hubris. Yet to argue that, ultimately, I think Locke's moral resolve would need to come across as vain. But in the moral universe of this film, I don't think it does. The morality that Locke is aware of doesn't seem unreal. On the contrary, it seems refreshingly real. He has seen moral failure in his past and he is determined to not commit the same sins. Hence, the monologues when he is not on the phone and hence all the comments about her being sad, lonely and vulnerable as grounds for his obligation.

As soon as I thought of Greek tragedy while I was watching the film, I was immediately dreading an ending where the doctor would call him back to tell him that the woman and child had both died during the operation.  I felt like that was the ending the film was heading for - he would have made all these sacrifices based on his strong sense of morality and then, at the end, after losing everything, he would arrive at the hospital to find that both woman and child had died.  That would have made the film into a Greek tragedy in the sense that Locke's view of morality was hubris.  But, just like in real life, not everything always goes wrong.  You are convinced at the end that not only is he, despite what happens with his wife, going to be there for his sons and his wife, but he is also going to be there for this woman and child.  Doing that would seem like a Herculean task, but after getting to know the character over the length of the film, you feel like he has the integrity, patience and competence enough to actually do it - if not perfectly, at least faithfully.

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Is Ken the only one of us who reviewed it this year? Just curious. I'm searching for reviews and I'm only finding one from the A&F group.

Edited by Overstreet

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