“Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your head lights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”

— El Doctorow

Steven Knight’s “Locke” is a cinematic blind date. There is only going to be the two of you, of course, so you’re hoping he’s going to be hot or at least, not boring. Tom Hardy (“The Dark Knight Rises”), is Ivan Locke, your date, and he’s got a bad cold, so that takes “hot” off the table. But he’s not boring either, in fact, there is something in this man that is a little dangerous, in the sense that he has made a dangerous decision, a choice of honor that will surely destroy the life he knows.

That life is simple, almost boring. He is a married Londoner with a very big job doing a very simple task. In the morning, a lot of very important people are expecting him to supervise the pouring of hundreds of thousands of yards of concrete, actually the biggest pouring of a site in European history. Locke is the trusted foreman who is expected to deliver the goods. “We’re building this thing to steal part of the sky,” he moans.

There is a saying in show business that success is only a phone call away. It appears that there is dark side to that: failure and disaster are equally only a phone call away.

This phone call comes in the first minutes. In the dark, it’s all in the dark, we see the site and some workers and flood lights, two booted feet getting into a car, the door of the BMW shuts, and you’re alone with your blind date. He’s got a cold and facial hair. He has medicine and a box of Kleenex next to him. He’s off, and you’re with him.


There will be a flurry of car phone calls. We see the phone names on the dashboard and hear the voices — some men and women.

You will know at the outset that the call that sets all of this in motion is from Bethan (Olivia Colman) who is frantic, nervous, excited and anxious. She seeks calm words from this very calm man. She is a player in a mistake he made, a pas de deux of passion. The next few calls involve his boss who wants to know where he is. Locke tells him he is on his way to London and won’t be at the pour. Excuse me? It appears to the concerned, that this is akin to American troops missing the boat at D Day.

Now, Locke has to man-up and calm the woman and his new young assistant (Andrew Scott) who has been drinking too much cider and who has just been told Ivan will not be at the pouring and that he, the assistant, will be in charge. This will be like telling one of the flight attendants that she has to land the plane in Chicago’s O’Hare airport in a blizzard. Yes. it’s that bad.

Then your blind date calls his wife Katrina (Ruth Wilson) and tells her he’s not coming home. Then he tells her why, and the air in the BMW thickens to an intense psychological fog. There will be tears and screams from everyone, while our calm Locke tries to talk them, and the senior boss, down from their emotional ledges. There is also a presence in the back seat, of the unseen father who apparently was a bit of a lout.

All this while, you, the reluctant date in the theater, will be clutching your seat belt and hoping that as your date drives through the night, speeding past other cars, hurtling down one expressway after another, under amber tower lights, occasional rain drops, that this all ends well, hopefully not in the Thames, in a ditch or the nearest mortuary. But this is not a thriller about hair-curling swerves, screaming brakes and fiery crashes. “Locke” is the story of a man who has danced around moral decisions most of his life, and has just now, on the eve of his biggest achievement, decided to make one.

Tom Hardy, whom most of you know as “Bane” in “The Dark Knight Rises,” is a big surprise to me. I remember him from a spate of small roles is some very big movies. Here, he takes on the hardest job an actor can manage, not only a tour de force, but in a car, in the dark with only the lights of passing cars and a robust phone panel for 88 minutes. To pull this off, to hold the screen and your audience, you have to be good, beyond good. You have to be brilliant. Hardy is, and so is “Locke.”

J.P. Devine is a former stage and screen actor.

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