Just about every year, brilliant movies are utterly ignored by the Oscars. The Searchers, Groundhog Day, Breathless, King Kong, Casino Royale, Touch of Evil, Caddyshack, Mean Streets, The Big Lebowski, Blackfish — the Academy has a long history of overlooking comedies, action movies, horror flicks, hard-boiled genre pics, artsy foreign films, and documentaries that aren’t about World War II. Before the ceremony, we’ll be taking a closer look at films that were too small, too weird, or perhaps simply too awesome for the Academy Awards. These are the Non-Nominees.
The film: Director Steven Knight teams up with actor Tom Hardy to tell the story of Ivan Locke, a man who leaves work only to embark on an 85-minute drive that will change his life. Shot in real time, the entirety of the film takes place in Locke’s car as he uses his bluetooth to talk to everyone from his boss to his wife—and, of course, the woman giving birth to his illegitimate child.
Why it wasn’t nominated: Premiering at the Venice Film Festival, followed by limited releases in both the U.K. and the US, Locke simply didn’t make enough of a splash to get on the Academy’s radar. A small independent film, Locke was beloved by critics—writer/director Steven Knight won Best Screenplay at the British Independent Film Awards, and editor Justine Wright took home the European Film Award for Best Editor, with the Los Angeles Film Critics Association naming Hardy Best Actor. But most moviegoers still don’t know the film’s name.
Unfortunately, this film seems to fall under the category of “unseen” in the eyes of the Academy—which is a shame, considering the Academy’s history of loving solo performances in the spirit of something like Cast Away or 127 Hours.
Why history will remember it better than the Academy did: From its very premise—to film what is essentially a one-man show in real time—to its last frame, Locke sets itself apart. To create what feels like a realistic account of one man’s drive, Knight shot the film as if it were a play: the cast and crew ran through the film in its entirety with each and every take. The end result? A riveting story of one man’s life, and how everything about it can change over the course of an hour and a half.
Locke deals with simple themes: love, loss. There are no life-or-death situations or crazy plot twists. Instead, it’s a film about knottier existential questions: What kind of man is its hero? Will he be a better man than his father, even if it means betraying his wife and potentially losing his job? What’s most important to him in this world?
Knight’s approach, when combined with his script and editing that places viewers directly in the car with Hardy, creates an emotionally spellbinding 85 minutes. The icing on the cake arrives in the form of Hardy’s subtle powerhouse performance. The camera never leaves his face as Hardy delicately balances his character’s visible emotions with what he reveals during those phone conversations. Hardy is tasked with playing a man who’s trying to be the best version of himself, all while having to hurt people he loves. It’s a performance of balance and finesse, and one worthy of Oscar recognition.
Locke is funny, heartbreaking, frustrating, and more than anything, mesmerizing. How many long car rides can say that?