Road to redemption

Road to redemption

One wrong choice is the difference between good and bad in ‘Locke'

By Michael Nordine 04/20/2014

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"All you need for a movie is a gun and a girl," Jean-Luc Godard supposedly-yet-famously once said; Steven Knight's "Locke" suggests that a car and a man might work just as well.

All but a few precious seconds of the film take place inside a BMW as Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) drives away from the stability of his own life toward a hospital in London, where a woman he slept with once and barely knows is about to become the mother of his child. Most of his ride is spent on the phone - with his wife, his kids, his boss, his underling, his mistress and the doctors delivering their unexpected (and, for Ivan, unwanted) baby. Our man works in concrete and is obsessed with the idea of strong foundations holding up imposing buildings, but it's clear that his own center can no longer hold.
That his boss comes up as "Bastard" on caller ID is an early hint that Ivan's perpetually calm demeanor masks a turbulent inner world. In between phone calls, he has imagined conversations with the absentee, now-deceased father whose footsteps he's determined not to follow in; when he breaks the life-altering news to his wife, she refers to his soon-to-be-born child as a bastard. The look in his eye tells you all you need to know about the effect that word has on him.

It's clear from the way Ivan and everyone else talks about his transgression, which has come to a head the night before the most important day of his career, that this is a one-time slipup. But "the difference between never and once is the difference between good and bad," as his wife says, and though he's dug himself into quite the hole he's determined to get out of it with as much grace and dignity as he can possibly muster.

Hardy excels in the role, which is an almost paradoxical showcase for actorly restraint. Watching him try to stay upright as everything in his life crumbles in the rearview mirror, you're almost as impatient to find out whether this will be a one-way trip as he is.

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