Locke may not be a film for everyone. Its 85-minute span is a void of few camera angles and explosions as the action within the four walls of Ivan Locke’s London-bound BMW is captured almost exclusively from behind the wheel, gazing into the protagonist’s eyes. It’s claustrophobic, unnerving and extraordinary.

Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) plays Locke, a dedicated, dependable site manager who is on the verge of completing one of the biggest construction projects of his career and should be suitably satisfied. Instead, he is in transit, hurtling along a darkened freeway from Birmingham to London, breathlessly juggling work, family and relationship commitments via his hands-free mobile device as he races to meet a woman he barely knows who lies waiting alone in a hospital bed. This trip will ultimately put Locke’s career on a precipice.

Hardy, free from the constraints of the mask he made famous as Bane, gives an outstanding performance – almost entirely from the shoulders up. Locke’s greatest battle may be against himself, and Hardy’s comforting Welsh accent belies a character on the verge of breakdown – he feigns calm and control whilst always making clear that, inside, his character is falling apart.

Writer/director Steven Knight is particularly adept in building suspense – the film often evokes his 2001 effort Dirty Pretty Things, centered around an organ harvesting ring that operates amongst migrant workers in a London hotel. This time around, Knight’s film is taut and the absence of face-to-face contact leaves Locke in two minds – he’s a dismissive father and husband who still maintains the need to ‘do the right thing’ by this woman.

Locke feels as though the viewer has travelled through a vortex with the lead character. There’s a certain hypnotic malaise that presents itself as the dashboard is illuminated with street lights and the oncoming traffic. The character has built his own self-contained pressure chamber, whilst the final destination is anyone’s guess. He is no longer the person he once was.

4/5 stars

Locke is in cinemas from Thursday August 28.

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