"a fascinating experiment and one that succeeds beautifully"

For many directors the premise of making a film set entirely in one location must be quite a daunting yet appealing challenge. A number of films over the years have set out to do this, most noticeably Joel Schumacher's ropey but enjoyable Phone Booth and most recently the nail biting Buried.

However both Phone Booth and Buried seemed a world away from any kind of tangible experience we, the average cinema goer might have. Which brings us to Locke, written and directed by Steven Knight (Redemption) and starring Tom Hardy.

The premise of Locke seems initially quite straight forward and see's Tom Hardy's character, Ivan Locke (putting on a decent Welsh accent) travelling from them Midlands to London to be present at the birth of his newborn baby. However as the journey progresses, Ivan has to make a number of calls via his Bluetooth car phone and gradually we start to piece together what's really going on and as it just so happens the woman giving birth is not his loving and devoted wife, Katrina, but in fact a one night stand from a job in Croydon a couple of months back.

On top of all this Ivan is juggling calls back and forth between his wife and his kids, his boss, Gareth and his friend Donal as in the morning one of the largest concrete pours in Europe is taking place and Ivan, in charge of it all, has made the decision to abandon this huge operation to instead be at the birth of his illegitimate son. With only so many miles of motorway and trying to comfort the hysterical Bethan, the woman currently having his child, Ivan has the task of attempting to salvage his marriage whilst orchestrating this "historical" pour which is due to take place at sunrise. Stressful stuff.

Ivan somehow manages to keep his cool throughout this, maintaining a level head and talking himself through the list of goals he must achieve in order to successfully do his job and save his marriage. However there are always elements out of our control, and gradually Ivan starts to realise that he may not be able to achieve everything on his 'list'.

The single location premise works wonderfully well in Locke, Steven Knight and his team have done a fantastic job in engaging us with what is essentially a long commute. We've all travelled along seemingly endless motorways at night, not exactly cinematic material but Knight transforms the blinking red and white lights of traffic, and the orange tinted tarmac into something quite beautiful and haunting, recalling the stunning night time cinematography in Michael Mann's Collateral.

Tom Hardy is without a doubt the anchor for this film. Now that he's rising up the Hollywood ranks you sometimes forget he had his roots in gritty British TV and film and Locke is a perfect role for the actor who turns in a stunning performance of a man who begins so sure footed and pragmatic but comes to realise that not everything is in his control. This is a part drama part existential crisis, the scenes involving Ivan berating the ghost of his deadbeat father in the backseat almost puts the whole film into context, as we realise that a lot of his childhood anger and resentment towards him explains a great deal about the way he chooses to lead his life as an adult.

Locke is made all the more believable with some fantastic voice acting from the likes of Olivia Coleman and Andrew Scott who play Bethan and Donal respectively. Believability is perhaps the key to a film like this, because at some point or another everyone has been in a situation where their relationship is falling apart, or there's problems at work and for the truly unfortunate, sometimes these events come crashing down on you all at once and Locke is a perfect study of such a human predicament, a stark contrast to anything like Phone Booth. Here Locke is almost mundane and trivial in its execution like we're simply a fly on the wall but at the same time there is great drama in the minutia of everyday life and that's what Knight has captured so brilliantly.

Movies are all spectacle these days, bigger, faster and louder so it's refreshing to see a film like Locke, stripped to its bare bones and one which entirely relies on the character driven performance of its actors. As a criticism, the ending doesn't satiate any sense of closure but such is the nature of life as one door closes, another opens and it's that attitude that Locke chooses to end on, however Locke is a fascinating experiment and one that succeeds beautifully.