The sign of a good movie is to turn a boring subject into a gripping piece of cinema. Be it the commercialisation of oil in the early 20th century or the founding of Facebook, recent years have seen me on the edge of my seat whilst watching films whose subject matter I quite frankly couldn’t care less about. It turns out there is a limit- and that limit is concrete.
Tom Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a man with an unfathomable accent (is he Welsh? Is he a member of the upper class aristocracy? Is he still doing his Bane voice but without the mask?) who discovers that the assistant he had a one night stand with seven months earlier, played in Voice-over by Olivia Colman, is about to prematurely give birth. This is earth shattering news for multiple reasons- for one, he’d promised his family that he was going to watch a football match with them that night, and most importantly, it gets in the way of him supervising a giant concrete pour on Birmingham the following morning. From there, the film takes place entirely in the car, with Locke being the only person on screen for the duration of the film; all conversations from here on in take place over the phone, and with the film so stripped down visually, the awful dialogue becomes increasingly distracting.
The first problem for me was Tom Hardy’s performance. With a basic thriller set-up and only one location to film in, Hardy’s over-acting distracts from the film itself. We are supposed to empathise with his character, and yet his character doesn’t have any believable character traits; his accent is entirely different from everybody else in the film, something which is incredibly jarring when speaking to his family. In a nutshell, it sounds like a cross between Tom Jones and Daniel Day-Lewis’ character in There Will Be Blood. This is a piece of film that aspires to social realism, and yet the only present character doesn’t seem like a real human being, due to the over-acting and the awful dialogue (“Don’t trust god when it comes to concrete!”). The screenplay itself is an ingenious conceit in theory- watching one man’s life fall apart in real time over the course of 80 minutes. In practice, the characters are so poorly drawn out (Andrew Scott plays a drunken Irish colleague, because having a drunken Irish man as a character isn’t a stereotype) that what should be a gripping narrative is uninteresting to the point of tedium.
Writer/Director Steven Knight is best known for writing London set crime thrillers, most notably David Cronenberg’s Eastern Promises. In theory, this ambitious set-up should be his most gripping work to date- and whilst his commitment to stripping back the film to its base elements is admirable, a poor screenplay and a misjudged central performance derail the film infinitely.