Overview:  A man makes a decision that changes the rest of his life. A24; 2014; Rated R; 85 min.

Decisions: Locke is a simple, straightforward film that asks us to do a few basic things: Reflect on our own individual loneliness, recall our past, and question our moral integrity. This request is negotiated between the audience and the film’s lone on-screen actor, Tom Hardy. Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a hardworking family man. Locke is soft-spoken, stern, and works hard to always do the right thing, a commitment that is tested when he discovers himself in a very compromising situation sprung from personal weakness. Hardy’s performance is compelling and deserves mention against the best performances of the year. His unsupported performance builds a character so uncomfortably real that I nearly stopped watching at its most effective moments.Locke

Cinematography:  Just a quick note here:  Director Steven Knight and cinematographer Haris Zambarloukos apply a sharp lighting effect that contributes to a forward-moving and uncertain energy. Though the movie  is set in one location (a car), the film is never dulled by its limitations. The tone of each frame reflects and emphasizes the feelings of Locke’s character.  The mirrors of the car are utilized in the same narrative-supporting degree. When Locke has his initial breakdown, he is framed by the rear-view mirror.  The multiple mirrors of the car work to add hints into the state of Locke’s character.

Relationships: Locke is struggling with his life and every relationship contained within it. He talks to every significant person in his life at one point throughout the film. The exchanges start as cordial, if not joyful, but the audience’s discovery of his motive changes the overall tone. In these conversations we see him slip away from stability, and then sanity, slowly transforming into the another person, one he never expected to become. These sequences of Locke in a disillusioned (and perhaps schizophrenic) state are sincere, jarring, and just plain tough to watch.

Conclusion: This film is a difficult one, especially for anyone familiar with these sorts of psychological struggles. Tom Hardy steps into his first real challenge as a dramatic actor, unassisted by the larger-than-life character structure that elevated his turns as Bane (The Dark Knight Rises), Charles Bronson (Bronson), Forrest Bondurant (Lawless), and Tommy Conlon (Warrior). For Hardy’s breakthrough display alone, Locke is definitely worth a watch.

Grade: B