The brilliance of Locke isn’t that it’s completely self-contained to one car and its driver Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy), but that within that limitation it creates such a well rounded and thrilling story. Written and directed by Steven Knight, the only character on screen is the titular Locke as he barrels down the freeway towards London. Through constant phone calls his story slowly unfolds and the predicament he finds himself in is a nail-biter.

Although it’s the type of film that’s best seen with minimal knowledge, it revolves around successful construction foreman Ivan Locke who decides to drive to London — a couple of hours away — instead of sticking around to prepare for an incredibly important project the next morning. Not only does he have to struggle with the stress of explaining to his superiors that he’s leaving them high and dry, but he still plans on making sure the job is done right. That’s only on top of the real reason he’s en route to London which is to take care of a situation that could undo his entire personal life.

Hardy totally inhabits Locke, a man the audience quickly learns is known for his calm demeanor. But his coolness is tested while driving 90 as he’s constantly making and receiving calls from his employers and family. Phone call by phone call, his situation slowly comes into focus as does the character of Locke. Knight’s script — he also wrote Eastern Promises — is thoroughly planned out but it appears as if Hardy and the voices on the other end are improvising, which could be true.

The film plays out in real time during Locke’s drive and the realism adds to the suspense that is slowly built up through the incessant phone calls. While the reason for Locke’s trip isn’t kept secret the whole film, his reasons for doing so are. Knight packs more mystery in this claustrophobic piece than many can in a film that scours the globe. He knows it’s that seed of uncertainty that will keep the audience invested in the story and, ultimately, it’s not the mystery of Locke’s destination but what’s driving him as a character.

Of course, much of the film hinges on Hardy’s ability to also keep the audience interested and it’s amazing that he can do so only from the seat of a car. He looks and acts so natural, as if it were really him driving. He may be best known as the guy behind the Bane mask, but Locke is sure to let the world know that he still has a lot left to prove.

Rating: 4 out of 5