Tom Hardy in a car. That's the rough structure of Locke and it works startlingly well. While the one-person show can work well on stage, it's bold to structure a film within the constraints of a moving vehicle. Steven Knight wrote and directed the film and it is the script that gives Hardy the words to carry the film through a compelling 85 minutes. It worked so well that I rewatched the film the next day before the iTunes rental expired and it was equally gripping the second time through.
Knight most notably is the writer of Dirty Pretty Things and Eastern Promises, which both gave great material and a solid dramatic structure for a cast and director to work with. The character of Ivan Locke emerges through the dialogue as the story emerges from a series of phone conversations he has while driving. Strategically uncovering different aspects of Locke's history and relationships as he solves problems builds a complicated picture of the main character. Each revelation changes the stakes which steadily increase as he drives towards his destination.
With the exceptions of a brief shot at the beginning and a shot at the end, the whole of the film is inside the car with Hardy. The other cast members are on the phone talking with him and that is where the drama comes in. The film was made in a week in an actual car on a freeway with Hardy on the phone with his costars. At first the person in a car constraint is at the foreground, but as it goes on, I forgot about it and was just caught up in the story.
With a one-person film the acting and writing are the keys, but the visuals manage to keep things interesting by using the light and windows and reflections around the car at night. But always at the centre of it is Hardy trying to keep everything together only with his words. It's one of the best performances of the year and is a treat to watch.