Ivan Locke is organized. We can tell by the way he loads everything he'll need into his BMW SUV. He's a born manager, a gifted multi-tasker. Every call he makes or takes carries the tone of a man calming down this employee, that boss, this overly-excited son worked up over a soccer match or that hysterical woman waiting to give birth.
You'd never know -- but you soon find out -- that his world is coming unraveled, right over the Bluetooth he all but wears out on the way from a construction site in England's Midlands to a hospital in London.
A woman, not his wife, is about to give birth to his child. His job, which has him supervising tomorrow's "biggest concrete pour in the history of Europe" (outside of military or nuclear plant construction, the exacting Locke corrects), has taken a back seat. He's going to be present for the birth.
"I've made my decision," he says, calmly, to his furious boss.
"You will be fine," and "don't start drinking (cider)," he tells his frantic and overwhelmed assistant, who will have to supervise the pour by himself.
"I won't be home for the match," is all he'll tell his youngest son.
"I want to move on to a practical next step" is the wrong thing to say to his "distressed" wife, after he breaks the news.
And every few minutes, he refuses to tell his paramour that he loves her, or to reassure the doctor and nurse who call that she will have "family" there for the birth.
"I am the father," he says, firmly and devoid of emotion. He will be there. He's being responsible.
"Locke" is a compressed, compact melodrama that is just actor Tom Hardy in a car, driving down the M6, meeting his mistakes and the people he has let down head on -- the only way he knows how. It's a measured, compelling performance that starts out quiet and works its way toward frantic, with Hardy never losing his Stiff Upper Lip reserve.
He just keeps calm and drives on.
Hardy and writer-director Steven Knight keep this intimate story pretty close to riveting, as Locke ticks through calls to see to it that things at home are manageable, things in the distant hospital are under control and every T is crossed at a very complicated work site, where concrete has to be poured all at once, matching grades of foundation cement from multiple providers, with roads closed to allow the trucks through.
Even when things go sideways, or "pear-shaped" as the Brits put it, Locke tries to keep his cool. His fury at the assistant who starts hitting the cider despite specific warnings not to drink, his annoyance at cops who break their word, a town council member who won't deal with a last-minute hiccup because he's "at an Indian restaurant," the wife who keeps weeping and hanging up on him, the lover whose hysteria takes on a different tone when she's sedated.
Hardy makes this guy a regular iceberg who only starts to thaw as we begin to understand why he turned out this way.
The obstacles that keep popping up seem melodramatic, and some touches -- a man lecturing his dead father -- don't really work.
But "Locke" will hold your interest as it presents a side of the burly, bluff "Dark Knight" villain we have never seen before on screen.
Rated R for language throughout.