Friday, January 15, 2021

Locked Down: Movie Review

A conversation with two great characters.
A mainstream HBO release billed as a heist comedy starring Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor, most people would not envision this movie. Produced during the pandemic and featuring our now-too-well-known lives of Zoom calls and quarantine, Locked Down is a very different take on the heist comedy – namely in that it really isn’t, this is a character-centric relationship dramedy that ventures into a department store heist for its final act.   2021

Directed by: Doug Liman

Screenplay by: Steven Knight

Starring: Anne Hathaway, Chiwetel Ejiofor

The screenwriter is Steven Knight, perhaps best known for Serenity, Eastern Promises, Pawn Sacrifice, and notably, Locke. I’m most familiar with the latter two and there are significant overlaps with both, but the most obvious and direct comparison is to Locke, so let’s start there. Locke takes place in two hours in one car with one famous actor on the phone facing moral consequences of past acts. Locked Down primarily takes place in one house with two famous actors on Zoom calls. It is about the ebbs and flows of their relationship, how their past actions will affect current choices and their moral acceptance of both.

It moves very slowly and it does not look or feel like a heist comedy. It is entirely about the characters. Two well crafted characters that do not have clear-cut ethics and exist in various shades of morally gray. They’re real people and are struggling with the current state of their lives.

Linda (Anne Hathaway) is a highly-valued corporate executive. She’s the CEO of their London branch. She’s working from home, in sweat pants off-camera, in a suit on-camera and spends her days on Zoom calls. Most people think her life is pretty sweet. On the home side, she was in a once-happy relationship with Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor), and now broken up they’re living out their quarantine together before they go their separate ways.

Paxton has a criminal past and is unable to get gainful employment. Pre-pandemic he worked as a driver for a transport company and he’s currently furloughed – so he’s getting paid to stay home and not work. He’s going stir-crazy trying to keep himself busy and dwelling on what went wrong in his relationship, and thinking Linda’s life is pretty sweet since she’s still working.

The film really gets going when Linda’s company is shutting down multiple branches and departments and she gets to fire everyone. There are themes of evil corporate execs at play and Linda is not one of them. That was a rough day for her and I was glued to every word she said. Hathaway's performance here goes right alongside Colossal and Rachel Getting Married for me.

Meanwhile Paxton’s company has hooked him up with a job, a theft at Harrods – the famous London department store which is shutting down, which also just happens to be one of the stores that Linda oversees. Oh, and Paxton has been given the fake identity of Edgar Allan Poe – that gives us enough comedy to know there are still a few laughs coming.

The rest of the movie is a push-and-pull of morals and an examination of what kind of life are they living. As it cannot be overstated, this is not your typical heist movie. This is a thoughtful examination of two people at a (metaphorical) crossroads in their life and what consequences do they want to live with – definitely not literal, since they have been and will remain living in their multi-storey house in London until the lock down is lifted.

The cinematography is really well done. We get the sense of claustrophobia when Paxton’s going stir crazy in the house, we get motorcycle rides on a deserted London street, and then a Heist at Harrods, with significantly fewer people taking away the opportunity to get lost in the crowd.

I really appreciated how Locked Down handled the pandemic. COVID has obviously left its mark all over this movie and these characters and has created the setting, but it’s so much bigger than that since it gives us this world these two highly interesting characters inhabit. It starts with real life but then expands into a diamond heist at one of the most famous department stores in the world.

I’m a fan. The acting is fantastic, the writing is really strong, the characters are interesting, there are snippets of politics and poetry, and just enough comedy, but be forewarned that it is really slow and the heist doesn’t come into play until the end.