Starring: Tom Hardy, Olivia Colman, Ruth Wilson
Director: Steven Knight (“Redemption”)
Written by: Steven Knight (“Eastern Promises”)

If the only things you know actor Tom Hardy for are his growly role as Batman’s masked nemesis Bane in “The Dark Knight Rises” or when he slummed it in the painful-to-watch romantic comedy “This Means War,” then you might not think Hardy is one of the best actors of his generation working today. Simply put: he is. From his frightening and under-seen lead role in the 2008 crime drama “Bronson” to his emotionally-charged and underappreciated role in the 2011 sports drama “Warrior,” it’s no surprise Hardy’s stock is rising fast. Another highpoint in the burgeoning British actor’s career comes by way of a film practically set up as a one-man show – and what a show Hardy gives audiences.

In “Locke,” a film written and directed by Oscar-nominated screenwriter Steven Knight (“Dirty Pretty Things,” “Eastern Promises”), Hardy commands the screen single-handedly as Ivan Locke, a construction foreman who is facing a life-changing decision on the eve of the biggest day of his professional career. Only hours before what is considered one of the biggest cement pours in European history, Ivan gets into his car and drives away from the construction site and towards London where a woman he had an affair with is giving birth to his child. Ivan may be the only indispensable employee for this massive task his construction company about to undertake, but he’s decide he’s not going to be there. His decision kicks in to gear a series of phone calls that ultimately make up the whole of the movie and give Hardy an incredibly diverse scale of emotions to work from.

From making calls to his anxious co-worker who can’t believe what Ivan is doing to his phone confession to his distraught wife who is at home with their two sons watching a big soccer match on TV, Hardy takes on a collection of genuine personalities with each conversation. Some of the most compelling dialogue Hardy delivers is when he looks into his rearview mirror and speaks to his imaginary father, which gives audiences a sense of the deeper reasons Ivan has decided to abandon one responsibility for the other. It’s a tough choice and Knight sets up the conversational narrative effortlessly. While the 85-minute film takes place entirely in one car and in one position, the intense nature of the exchanges between Ivan and each person in his life feel like they are always surging forward. Not only is this real-time film experiment suspenseful, especially for a storyline that has its main actor sitting in the same spot for the duration, the more complex themes and metaphors Knight uses to explain how fragile life really is never feel overworked or superficial.

While there are a few spots where “Locke” may feel a bit tedious to some moviegoers (if you can sit through Robert Redford doing absolutely nothing in “All is Lost,” however, you can sit through this), Hardy’s wonderful portrayal of a logical man who is about to lose everything that is important to him is the reason stay for the entire car ride. It’s easily one of the best performances of his career.

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