One Man and his Phone
Locke Blu-ray Review
The simple man-in-a-car concept of Steven Knight’s sophomore directorial outing, Locke, only really works as a superb showcase of Tom Hardy’s now-undeniable screen presence, making this one-man stage-play-style drama strangely compelling despite its minimalist design.Hardy plays a Welsh construction foreman, Ivan Locke, who receives a phone-call the night before a big concrete delivery is due, and is forced to abandon his work responsibilities and go on a long night drive from Birmingham to London, making a series of important phone calls along the way, many of which have a devastating impact on those close to him. Shot with a remarkably innovative style – considering the restrictive single-vehicle shooting location – this high concept feature marks a strong second outing for Knight, who previously attempted, only marginally successfully, to produce a non-standard Statham vehicle with Hummingbird. Here he works with a miniscule budget, and draws everything out of his lead actor, bringing the rest of the cast in using the carphone.By keeping the focus on Hardy, his voice, his manner, his mannerisms, his reactions, his simmering frustration, his emotion and his outbursts, Knight maintains the tension within the car. It’s not a powerhouse performance, per se, but it is a very interesting, well-nuanced character dissection, and he keeps you hooked throughout. Perhaps that’s the positive and negative to Locke – it manages to keep you hooked despite the plot essentially being about relatively familiar family and relationship stresses, and... um... pouring concrete. The downside, of course, is the sheer normality to the plot: it’s a small-scale picture, done extremely well, and featuring a standout central performance, but small nonetheless.
What is Locke Blu-ray Picture QualitySimilarly far from glamorous, Locke's visuals are inherently restricted by the low budget and limited scope, but Lionsgate's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray release of the film - which offers up a 1080p/AVC-encoded High Definition video presentation in the film's original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.39:1 widescreen - does a decent enough job at rendering an authentic representation of the material.
It was never going to look pretty, but the style and content largely get you past the variable visuals, and the HD presentation holds up.
Detail is strong and refined. The film is entirely night-based, and relies on in-car lighting, motorway lighting and street lights to provide natural ambience, giving it an authentic but shadow-dominated feel. Still, for the most part, the Red Epic HD cinamatography handles it, offering up good detail on Hardy's increasingly fraught visage, his beard, his frown, and his general wear and tear. Clothing weaves, seat textures and car interior touches are well-represented. There's no overt signs of edge enhancement or excessive DNR application, and only trace hints of banding and crush.
The colour scheme is similarly restricted, as if the film is bathed in street lights and neons, and nothing ever feels particularly natural because there's simply no daylight on offer - with Hardy himself often having a sickly yellow tint to his skin tone - but that is a stylistic choice and one which works well and suits the content. Black levels are manageable even at the extremes of the low level lighting. Indeed, most movies don't spend this much time bathed in darkness - particularly not such tiny-budget ones - and the film does not suffer one bit from these limitations, instead revelling in its stylish flourishes.
How does Locke Blu-ray SoundWith such scant few sound elements - a persistently ringing phone and call-waiting alert; the traffic noises, including occasional sirens, thundering trucks, honking horns and low grumbling engines; the thrum of the motorway underneath; the dialogue on both sides of the phone; and a minimalist score that barely creeps into the proceedings - it's hard to regard Locke with any strong audio influence, but the reality is that it has a wonderfully atmospheric, frequently claustrophobic feel to it, and that the accompanying DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track perfectly reproduces that here.
It may be all fraught relationships and pouring concrete but the audio makes it feel like his world is imploding, which, metaphorically, it is.Surround usage is surprisingly effective, and you constantly feel as if you're right there locked in the car with him, and trapped with all the same demons that he is trapped with. The persistent motorway thrum pervades, and brings the LFE channel it too, whilst the underplayed score works effectively at throwing you further off-balance as the tension builds and the walls come crashing down. Far from bombastic, and with nothing whatsoever that could possibly be described as demo content, this is still a very good audio accompaniment which suits the material fine.
Locke Blu-ray ExtrasWe get two main extras - an Audio Commentary from Writer/Director Steven Knight and a single 10-minute Featurette, Ordinary Unravelling: The Making of Locke which offers up behind the scenes footage and interview snippets with the filmmakers. Over the course of the Commentary you get a feel for what Knight had in store for the characters, his themes and his angles, and how he wanted them to come across, providing some insight that may confirm or disprove your reactions to the film. And the Featurette gives you an interesting perspective, revealing the unique way in which they shot the film - with Hardy driving and the rest of the voice cast in a hotel room phoning him in real-time. There are also some Preview Trailers.
Is Locke Blu-ray Worth Buying
Hardly the nail-biter the poster quotes would have you believe, this is a small-scale high-concept drama driven by a standout performance.
Lionsgate's Region B-locked UK Blu-ray offers up decent video and audio - especially considering the inherent limitations of the film - as well as a couple of nice extras. Fans should consider it identical to the US counterpart and thus the likely definitive release for those with the relevant region capability. Fans of Hardy and those interested in the sound of it should definitely give it a rental. It features a great performance from Hardy and is well worth watching. Whether or not it's a keeper is an entirely different question, and it's up to you to decide.
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