You’ve probably seen Tom Hardy as the mad muzzle-mouthed villain Bane in The Dark Knight Rises or as the charismatically shady forger Eames in Inception. But trust me, you’ve never seen the British actor summon the bottled-up desperation and emotional range he displays in Steven Knight’s brilliant one-man show, Locke. Hardy plays Ivan Locke, a successful construction supervisor who, at the outset of the film, gets behind the wheel of his BMW and starts driving to London at night. Through a series of phone calls, his dire circumstances slowly come into focus. The crisis that he’s racing toward has put his job, his family, and maybe even his sanity at risk. He’s a responsible man — a man used to being in control — and he’s frantically trying to extinguish a series of blazes without losing his cool. If it sounds like I’m being cagey about what happens next, that’s because it’s best to know as little as possible going in. The snowballing sense of tension and claustrophobia is too precious — and precise — to spoil.
Yes, Locke is a bit of a storytelling stunt: For the entirety of the movie, Ivan is the only character on screen. But even with nothing to cut away to and no flashbacks to offer context, the film manages to stay as tight as a vise. And I can’t think of anyone I’d rather see white-knuckled behind the wheel than Hardy, who with his bravura performance here has turned me into a true believer. A