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Film / Locke

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Locke is a 2013 British drama film written and directed by Stephen Knight (of Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises fame) starring Tom Hardy. The film is notable for its gimmick in that it takes place entirely within the automobile of the main character as he travels from Birmingham to London and spends most of the time on the phone.

Ivan Locke is a construction foreman who was scheduled to oversee the pouring of a concrete foundation for a new skyscraper. Instead, he has chosen to drive to London to attend the birth of his bastard child, the result of a one-night stand. Along the drive, he makes a series of calls to manage the wreckage this decision has caused in his personal and professional lives.


This film contains examples of:

  • The Ace: The people Locke talks to repeatedly emphasize that he's the best construction manager they've ever worked with. Even under incredibly stressful circumstances, he knows every detail and has a solution for every problem. This makes it all the more dramatic when everything falls apart for him.
  • The Alcoholic: Donal gets drunk on cider over the course of the film, after explicitly being told that he shouldn't be drinking, which causes problems. He admits that he's been caught drunk driving before and will go to prison if caught again.
  • Babies Make Everything Better: At the end of the film, Locke is awestruck hearing his child's voice over the phone; it appears to be the universe confirming that everything he's gone through was Worth It to bring a new person into the world.
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  • Being Good Sucks: Locke does the right thing by choosing to be there for his bastard child ....but it's at the expense of his professional and personal life. By the end of the film, they're utterly wrecked.
  • Berserk Button: The only time Locke loses his temper while on the phone is when Donal questions what mix they need on the concrete.
    Donal: I just got off the phone with the plant in Stafford, and they said they know that it's a C6 mix, but how far towards C5 can it go? In other words, if one truck had some C5, how bad would that be taken? [silence] Are you still there?
    Locke: Donal, what does it say on the whiteboard?
    Donal: On the... It says C6.
    Locke: What does it say on every piece of paperwork and on every sign-off sheet?
    Donal: It says C6.
    Locke: It says C6. And you know why? Because, eventually, when my building is complete, it will be 55 floors high! It will weigh 2,223,000 metric tons! Okay? My building will alter the water table and squeeze granite. It will be visible from 20 miles away. At sunset, it will cast a shadow probably a mile long. Now, if the concrete at the base of my building is not right, if it slips half an inch, cracks appear. Right? If cracks appear, then they will grow and grow, won't they? And the whole thing will collapse!
    Donal: Ivan, look...
    Locke: You make one mistake, Donal, one little fucking mistake, and the whole world comes crashing down around you! Do you understand? So you tell Stafford, C6.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Locke has lost his job and his wife intends to divorce him, but his sons still love him, his new child has been delivered safely, he's gotten that goddamn concrete pour supervised successfully, and he's still convinced that he's doing the right thing.
  • Calling the Old Man Out: Locke imagines that his deadbeat father is sitting in the backseat of his car and directs a few tirades into his rear-view mirror.
  • Character Title: Ivan claims that he has repaired the family name Locke by making the principled decision to be there for his bastard child, unlike his wayward father.
  • The Determinator: Ivan Locke. He vows to be there for the birth of his bastard child and complete the concrete job and still fix things with his wife even when the obstacles stack up against his favor.
  • Disappeared Dad: Ivan's father wasn't around for his childhood. Ivan's primary motivation to drop everything and attend the birth is to avoid the mistake his father made.
  • Freudian Excuse: Inverted. Ivan's dad was a complete deadbeat (it's implied that Ivan didn't meet him until he was 23), and Ivan is determined not to be like him. That's a major part of his motivation for risking his marriage and career to be there for his unplanned baby.
  • Guys Are Slobs: Ivan's wife complains that he tracks concrete into the house, forcing her to chip away his "stone footprints." He also hasn't trimmed his beard in some time, which is possibly a Beard of Sorrow.
  • Hope Spot: After the problems with the concrete pour have been sorted out, Ivan allows himself a few moments to believe that everything will work out with his personal life as well. Then his wife calls...
  • Insistent Terminology: Ivan seems to find it important to be precise in the way he phrases things. The hospital staff inquire several times about Ivan's relation to Bethan, asking if he is her partner/next of kin/etc. Each time, he firmly corrects them that he is the child's father. Also, when Gareth talks about Ivan's ten years of service, Ivan repeatedly corrects him that it's nine years. This establishes his honesty and precision in all matters except the thing that sets the whole plot in motion.
  • Law of Inverse Fertility: Ivan cheated on his wife exactly once, with a middle-aged secretary who'd given up on having children. Naturally, she gets pregnant.
  • Married to the Job: In a moment of bitterness, Ivan's wife tells him that he was more in love with his buildings than her. The passionate way he talks about "my building" suggests that she has a point.
  • Meaningful Name: The main character is named after the Enlightenment philosopher who empathized logic and reason. Locke tries to reason his way through his crisis at every step. It doesn't work.
  • Minimalism: The film is entirely composed of a single man taking phone calls in his car.
  • Minimalist Cast: Ivan Locke is the only face we see in the whole film. We hear the voices of another 11 people, though mostly about five.
  • Mundane Made Awesome: Only Tom Hardy can make the supervision of a concrete pour over the phone sound so suspenseful and badass.
  • Not So Stoic: Ivan maintains a calm and even-toned voice while on the phone, but he's shown weeping during some calls and suddenly exploding with rage when not on the phone.
  • Oblivious Guilt Slinging: When Donal gets Stefan and his crew to help with the job, Stefan shouts out that Ivan Locke is the best man in England. You can see how hard this hits Ivan.
  • Red Herring: Locke keeps talking about how the traffic is fine, but cops speed past him with sirens blaring several times. Other than some light road construction, Locke never encounters any traffic difficulties farther up the road.
  • Rule of Symbolism: Locke's determination to get the foundation of the building laid properly very clearly mirrors his determination (and failure) to build a stable and lasting life and family. If it wasn't obvious enough, he gives Donal an impassioned speech about how a single error on a project this big will cause cracks that will grow until the whole building collapses.
  • Skewed Priorities: Even with his family crumbling and his job lost, Locke is determined to make sure his last project is successful. This is most dramatic when, shortly after telling his wife he cheated on her, he asks her to find a phone number he needs for the project. Her disbelief is entirely understandable.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The film ends before the concrete pour is complete, so we never find out if all of Locke's effort to get it going successfully paid off.
  • What the Hell Is That Accent?: Locke is supposed to be a Welsh character; however, Hardy's accent practically wanders around the entire British Isles (commencing in South Wales, to be fair). This was due to the fact that the man Hardy based Locke's Welsh accent on was not, in fact, Welsh. Hardy didn't learn this fact until shortly before the movie was released, and at that point it was too late to do anything to fix it.
  • Working Through the Cold: Tom Hardy's real-life cold during filming caused an inadvertent example of this trope.
  • "World of Cardboard" Speech:
    Ivan Locke: Well hear this, Gareth. When I left the site just over two hours ago, I had a job, a wife, a home. And now I have none of those things. I have none of those things left. I just have myself and the car that I'm in. And I'm just driving and that's it.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Locke had a one-night stand with a woman he is not particularly attracted to and does not particularly like. He claims he was simply drunk, in a good mood, and felt sorry for her.


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