The film follows Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) on a car journey from the Midlands to London. He’s just finished work and is driving his BMW through the evening traffic to his destination. En route we discover more than we thought we needed to know about concrete but also the reason for Ivan’s trip. Both subjects are gripping.
Ivan is the head foreman on a huge building site and tomorrow is the day the concrete is going to be poured into the building’s foundations. It is clear that Ivan loves his job and he waxes lyrical about the building he is going to erect: the air that it will shift, the mile-long shadow it will create and the 200-mile views it will boast. However, despite this being the biggest concrete pouring in Europe ever (“outside of military and nuclear”) our man is going to be a no-show.
He’s about to become a dad and is on his way to hospital for the birth. The trouble is, Ivan has been happily married to Katrina for 15 years and has two young sons, whom he obviously adores. The woman about to give birth is a one-night stand he met on a job in the unromantic Croydon. As the journey winds its way down the M6, we see Ivan juggling calls with his boss, his foreman, his wife and kids, and his erstwhile lover. Yet they are not the only ones he talks to. He also speaks to his dead father, a deadbeat who abandoned his family and who Ivan only met as a young man. Through these dialogues with his defunct dad we understand why Ivan feels he has to do the right thing. He knows he’ll lose his job, but he’s more concerned with seeing through the job he started (both the concrete pouring and the new baby).
From his conversations, it is clear that Ivan is an honourable man (“the best man in England”). On his windscreen are stickers supporting the Prince’s Trust, Help for Heroes and the Royal National Lifeboat Institution. Ivan looks a little like a ship’s captain, with his beard and cable-knit sweater, and in his car he is like a sailor navigating the rough seas of his work and personal life. Although we only see Ivan onscreen, it would be unfair to call this film a single hander, as Ivan is constantly on the phone throughout the film’s 85-minute duration.
There are fine performances from his collocutors, including Ruth Wilson as Katrina, Olivia Colman as Bethan and Andrew Scott as Donal, who provides much needed light relief as Ivan’s cider-loving feckless foreman. This is a groundbreaking and beautifully rendered film, with Tom Hardy in brilliant form. Like a perfect storm, all the elements have come together in perfect unity: screenplay, direction and performance. Our hope is that this good and decent sailor can make it through the storm.