Welcome to Alternative to What: a weekly column that tries to find a great alternative to driving to the multiplexes. Based on releases of that week, the selections will either be thematically related or feature recurring cast and crew. The goal is to help you better understand the diversity of cinema and hopefully find you some favorites while saving a few bucks. At worse, this column will save you money. Expect each installment to come out on Fridays, unless specified.
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Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
For fans of action films, this weekend is going to be a big one with the return of Mad Max with its sequel Fury Road. With glowing reviews praising its insane direction and imagery, it is a film that is likely to be highly discussed over the upcoming summer season. While the sequel isn't necessarily in tune with the previous film Beyond Thunderdome, it does manage to create a reminder as to what blockbusters can be when allowed to be fun and themselves. Most of all, it features Tom Hardy replacing Mel Gibson as Max in what will hopefully be an interesting take on the character as he drives cars and deals with whatever anarchic tendencies lay ahead.
While Hardy may not yet be a household name despite appearing in Inception, he will likely get a large boost thanks to Mad Max: Fury Road. However, this isn't the first movie where he's had to deal almost exclusively with cars. While it may not seem like the most obvious choice, Locke is a film that pretty much centers around Hardy also getting to a destination. The only difference is that there aren't that many effects and the big draw is that he is mostly talking to a built-in car phone over the course of 90 minutes. Everything that we understand about Locke is done through a one-sided view of a conversation. If anything, it will help you to understand why Hardy is such a charismatic figure.
The film itself was shot driving down the freeway a few times after some rehearsing. The film plays out predominantly in real time and never cuts away from the man driving in the car. It may change angles, but it never loses sight of the protagonist, whose drive home deals with work and home issues as well as dealing with the greater theme of what makes a man in the 21st century. The film is so well written that it could easily have been a minimalist play on a stage. Instead, it is a moment to allow the quieter side of Mad Max to shine in ways that are vulnerable and more human than most of what Hardy has been called upon to do in recent years.
There isn't much to say about the film since its premise is very simple. The fact that we are able to get an entire understanding of Locke over the course of one drive is a testament to craft. We can sense his struggles and we relate to him because we have been in similar situations. While Locke is a somewhat ordinary man, his conversations aren't mundane, especially as things begin to kick into high gear and the plot adds some twists. What likely does the best job is that he is incapable of doing anything about either at that exact moment. He is helpless and has to get home before he can do anything else. It is that moment where the stress is at its peak and the only feeling left is dread. It proves more than any other film that Hardy can be more dramatic and nuanced with the right material.
While it isn't likely that there's much crossover between Locke and Mad Max: Fury Road, there is still Hardy driving cars. If anything, Locke is the anti-car movie because it doesn't have visual explosions, just personal ones. There may not even be dusty streets and spikey cars that will interfere with Locke. It is sort of a departure that proves that there's more to fast cars than action films. This action revolves around character growth, and that itself is impressive. It may not put you in the right mood, but it will give you a larger sense of Hardy's range as an actor, considering that the dialogue count differs greatly between the two.