Locke, the 2013 British drama written and directed by Steven Knight, is a movie in which we see just one single actor driving at night from point A to point B down England’s M6 motorway. His drive is spent taking and making a series of stressful phone calls. Occasionally, between calls, he confronts a figure from his past via the car’s rearview mirror.

This daring experiment works very well, and the result is an intriguing 84-minute movie, thanks to Steven Knight’s concise writing, and a strong performance from actor Tom Hardy as construction foreman and BMW X5 driver Ivan Locke.

Locke has a pressing personal matter to attend to, and this means he will not be present at his job to supervise a concrete pour of historic proportions. Nor will he be able to watch an important soccer match with his family.

The movie’s minimal production is unique, and so is Ivan Locke as a movie character. He is a calm and level-headed adult with a singular focus on doing things right. He has built a reputation brick by brick on his meticulous faithfulness to details and responsibilities.

He has now, however, fallen short of perfection — and his screw-up has put him behind the wheel on this night, where he will desperately try to manage a typhoon of consequences and right the ship of his personal honor, which is badly damaged and sinking fast.

Coordinating this barrage of phone calls — touching calls, desperate calls, angry and frustrating conversations with coworkers, family, acquaintances, and strangers — Ivan Locke is alone in his car like a goalie at the net. Only the voices of the other actors are heard as they respond to his painstaking efforts.

The same “theatre of the mind” engagement that powered the golden age of radio works just as effectively in Locke. The vague monotony of the nighttime highway allows the imagination to expand, and encourages us to picture the faces, reactions, and surroundings of the people on the other end of his calls. The emotions crossing Tom Hardy’s own face are made all the more powerful by the fact that he’s trying to stay as calm and clear and true as possible, under gruelling circumstances.

Locke is well worth watching. I rate it three stars out of four. So as not to miss words here and there due to its actors’ accents, we turned the disc’s English subtitles on.

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