Dir: Steven Knight
With: Tom Hardy
Olivia Coleman (voice)
Ruth Wilson (voice)
Ivan Locke (Hardy) is a construction manager on a major build somewhere north of London. He gets into his BMW and starts driving and from that moment until the end of the film that’s where we stay, with Locke, in his car. We find out that he has received a phone call that is to change his life forever.
It’s going to be difficult to describe how a film about a man in his car can turn out to be one of the most nail-biting films I have seen in a long while but try I must. It is set entirely at night so we have no more to look at than Ivan; other cars on the motorway, the odd Eddie Stobart lorry and the lights. Sodium lights, car lights, red, green, yellow and blue lights as they are reflected in and across the windscreen whilst Ivan tries to hold his life together on his car phone. The call has summoned him to London abandoning his family and his job on the eve of the ‘biggest pour of concrete ever, outside of nuclear and the military’. A drunken one night stand on a previous job means that he has to attend a birth at short notice and must inform all those concerned on the drive south.
The tension slowly escalates as he makes and receives one call after another. His wife Katrina (Wilson) and two sons are expecting him home to watch a football match. She has bought him his favourite German beer and sausages and is even wearing ‘the shirt’ for the first time, much to the embarrassment of the boys. The birth mother Bethan (Coleman) is alone and frightened in a labour ward with no friends or family to be with her and his colleagues are going batshit crazy because this once paragon of dependability has gone AWOL. He has to explain the circumstances to his shell shocked wife, calm the distressed Bethan and calmly accept the sack from his boss whilst at the same time talk his understudy Donal (Andrew Scott, voice) through the procedures for coordinating the pour, a task which he has never done before. Never have the niceties of large scale construction been as riveting as when we listen to Ivan maintain almost godlike control over the terrified Donal. Indeed when Donal jokingly says he has been assured by god that the weather is to remain dry, Ivan berates him for his complacency insisting that god can’t be trusted with concrete. Meanwhile his wife retreats into shock and his boys become slowly aware that something is very wrong indeed, bravely trying to keep up the football banter as they sense their dad drifting away from them.
During all this the camera moves in and around the car, catching Ivan’s every movement as he attempts to deal with his emotions within the claustrophobic interior and the legacy of his own father abandoning him many years previously but nevertheless determined not to be distracted from the course of action that, however costly, he believes is the right thing to do. Finally we watch his taillights disappear as we leave him to complete his lonely quest, left only with the haunting soundtrack and the final poignant exchange.
© Simon Duckett // twitter: @sydee58
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