The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

Locke: an experiment in minimalism that works

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Tom Hardy in Locke
A word count of the book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R Martin shows that it contains 1 770 000 words. So far. Ulysses contains 265 000 words. The Little Prince: 16 534.

With all respect for Martin and Joyce, I would say that of the three, The Little Prince is the one that I love and admire most. If I was asked to save a book from destruction putting it in my memory, like the scenario in Farenheit 451, that would be my choice. Not just because it’s the easiest one to memorize, which it obviously is, but also because it seems to me as the one that is most essential to preserve for future generations.

My fascination for minimalism
In the world of movies it’s the same. Of course I can enjoy a big budget spectacle once in a while as much as anyone else. But usually it’s the low budget productions that stick with me, the ones that I come back to in my mind, the ones that I keep finding myself referring to in conversations with people. Moon, made with less than 5 million dollars and just one actor is a way, way, way better science fiction movie than the remake of Total Recall with its 125 million dollar budget and a crew team of hundreds and hundreds of people.

I’m fascinated by minimalism, in all areas. Though it need to be pointed out that there isn’t a natural law that less always is more. It isn’t. Less can also be flat, shallow, unsophisticated, oversimplified and pointless. The artists don’t always pull it off. But as I watch them perform, I hope they will, just to show them that skill and talent always triumph over size. They’re waling the edge, checking out the boundaries. How few ingredients can you use and still cook a great meal? How few words do you need to tell a good story? How many lines does it take to paint an immersive landscape? And just how small and simple can you make a movie without making it feel like a televised theatre play?

Similarities to Buried
Locke is an example of a movie with a micro budget that works. It’s got a lot in common with Buried, if you remember it. Both movies occur in real time and are about 90 minutes long. They both feature a man with working class background who is stuck in a box from which he makes a series of phone calls with his mobile, to friends as well as strangers. We never get to see them, we just hear their voices.

The genre is different though, as reflected by the character of the box. Buried is a thriller and the man is stuck in a coffin, buried alive. Locke is a drama and the “box” is a car, driven by the man. Unlike his buried equivalence he’s got the freedom to make his own choices. This evidently burdens him. The decision he makes where to drive the car will most likely change his life

I really, really liked this, not the least thanks to the casting of Tom Hardy as the man in the car. You know those actors who have a distinct aura, a flavour that you recognize in every movie they make, because they’re not really playing roles, they’re just representing themselves. Like Bill Murray. Well, Tom Hardy isn’t one of those “personality actors”. He’s quite the opposite. And that’s why he could go straight from playing Bane in The Dark Knight Rises to this. There isn’t the slightest trace of Bane in this performance. That’s how good he is. It’s thanks to him that this film rises far above the radio play with images that it otherwise easily could have become.

Few words and small gestures can make for very good story telling; you just need to choose them well. Locke embodies this as it pictures the different aspects of a life lived – childhood, parenthood, love and loss, just by some phone calls. If you’re not into minimalistic movies, I suspect that it might feel a little underwhelming. But if you’re a fan of the genre like me, it’s something you should see.

Locke (Steven Knight, 2014) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

June 12, 2014 at 9:14 pm

Posted in Locke

2 Responses

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  1. Great post, Jessica. I’m really looking forward to checking this out, especially for Tom Hardy, one of my favorite “new” actors. Also, I completely agree on the power of minimalism.


    June 13, 2014 at 7:03 am

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