Locke a Psychological Masterpiece

LOCKE (2014)
Directed and written by Steven Knight
85 minutes, R (language)
* * * * *

Ivan Locke (Tom Hardy) sits in his BMW and drives from Birmingham to London. It takes 85 minutes. That's all that physically happens in the film Locke. There are no explosions, no shoot-outs, no menacing bad guys, and no FX–just dialogue. For all that it lacks in the traditional movie-making sense, Locke is also the most thrilling, tense, and psychologically taut ride you'll take all year. It is no exaggeration to attach the label 'masterpiece' to Steven Knight's screenplay and film. 

If your skepticism needle is dancing in the red zone, so was mine until I saw this film. An early scene sets the tone. Ivan Locke walks from a massive construction site through the gathering darkness, opens his car door, drives a short distance, stops at a signal, and activates his turn signal. When the light turns green he sits frozen at the intersection until honked by a truck behind him. Locke wipes the fatigue from his face and turns in the opposite direction. We soon learn that Locke–a successful contractor who, in the morning is supposed to supervise the largest civilian concrete pour in European history–is headed for London, not his suburban home where his wife and two sons await. Why?

We also discover that Locke is such a man of routine, competence, probity, reason, and dependability that, deviations like the one upon which he has embarked are (as we're reminded) "not like" him. Details emerge through a series of phone calls between Ivan and his boss, an assistant prone to drink, his son, his wife, a city council member, and a woman he barely knows. As Ivan drives, he tries to command the winds of a perfect storm. All that's riding on any slip-up is the fate of a multi-billion-dollar project, his career, his marriage, his legacy, and his honor. We're never quite sure if Ivan is a god orchestrating the fate of others, or an obsessive-compulsive rushing toward madness as orderliness unravels.

Locke was filmed (mostly) in real time. We see what Ivan sees–the rain-slicked roads, the speeding lorries, the hypnotic glare of taillights and highway lamps, the glow of the dashboard, and fatigue-induced mirages. Those who recall Martin Scorsese's Taxi Driver (1976) will recognize Locke's visual style. Just as Robert De Niro fueled the beatific horror of Taxi Driver, so too is Tom Hardy the driving force of Locke. Steven Knight's crisp screenplay is worthy of accolades in its own right but like other dialogue-heavy films such as Diner or Glengarry Glen Ross, words fall flat unless they are articulated by talented actors. I reiterate–Ivan Locke's drive to London is all that happens in this film. Tom Hardy's genius is making the audience passengers in both the car and his mind. Is he orchestrating us as well, or does he need company as he transgresses the line between control and passion? –Rob Weir



Tea Party Seeks Merger with Boko Haram


 Will these two groups soon be wearing the same uniform? 

In a move variously described as "shocking," "promising," and "just plain nuts," the Tea party has announced its intention to merge with the radical Nigerian Islamist group Boko Haram. "It just makes sense," said Tea Party spokesman Attila Farr-Wright. "We have so much in common. We both hate women, Jews, fornicators, and popular culture. We certainly support Boko Haram's idea that girls don't need to be educated in order to serve men, which they're supposed to do. It says that right in the Bible. And we've got to hand it to them–that idea of kidnapping young girls and marrying them off to older men is simply brilliant. An idea like that would go down a storm with key Tea Party constituencies in places such as West Virginia, South Carolina, and Kentucky." 

Farr-Wright's comments drew a sharp rebuke from Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, who noted that some of the girls recently kidnapped by Boko Haram were only 9-years-old. "No good Kentuckian supports marriage unless the girl is at least 11," said an angry Paul. House Majority Leader John Bonehead initially refused to condemn the merger, saying he preferred to take a "look-and-see position, like I do with everything that could jeopardize my reelection." When told that President Obama called the proposed merger "barbaric, misogynist, and immoral" Representative Bonehead shifted gears and remarked, "Obama's denunciation of the merger is just another example of his extremist socialistic agenda. If this merger had been in effect earlier, we could have avoided the Benghazi scandal he's trying to cover up."

The proposed merger has met with less enthusiasm with Boko Haram. "They must accept Islam, or we will cut off the heads of these infidels," said Boko Hara leader Muhammad al-Porkaar. Al-Porkarr added that pictures he has seen of Tea Party evangelical women "validates our belief that women should be encased in burqas that cover every square centimeter."  Farr-Wright dismissed Boko Haram threats as "a small bump on the road to the mutual goal of the total subjugation of women. We can teach them a few things that haven't occurred to them yet, such as sticking probes into women's vaginas. And we both support the idea that government ought to be a theocracy. I'm sure that once they hear about Jesus they will fall to their knees and become Christians."

Fox News reported that all Boko Haram members have already converted. When informed this had not, in fact, occurred, Fox News Minister of Propaganda Bill O'Reillahann refused to retract the story and blamed the rest of the "liberal media" for failing to adhere to Fox's "fair and balanced standards." In related news, Ann Coulter announced she is happy to don a burqa. "Anything to derail the radical feminist lesbian agenda," said Ms. Coulter. "Plus this gets me back in the news. A lot of people mistakenly think I died."

The National Organization of Women (NOW) decried the merger as "the internationalization of the war on women," according to NOW spokeswoman Hope Leslie Bourgeois. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), however, reacted with glee. "This is fantastic news," said ACLU Vice President Eugene Debs Baldwin. "Who could ask for more than to put two no-compromise Troglodyte hate groups in the same place? With any luck at all they'll slaughter each other like gumps clucking down the Perdue assembly line. I can't wait to see the look on Tea Party faces when they realize that Boko Haram aren't white people."

Secretary of State John Kerry was unavailable for comment. According to State Department Press Secretary I. M. Waffling, Mr. Kerry was too busy not articulating any specific policy on numerous other issues to not comment on the Tea Party/Boko Haram merger.

The Tea Party plans a June 1 festive kickoff celebration to launch the alliance at Stone Mountain, Georgia. Jerry Lee Lewis is among the scheduled performers.


Ayaan Hirsi Ali's War on Islam

Nomad: From Islam to America (2011)
Free Press 978-14391-7182-0

The best way to get me to read something is to ban it or seek to silence its author. Brandeis University’s (cowardly) decision to rescind an honorary degree to Ayaan Hirsi Ali for her criticism of Islam led me to downloaded Nomad, her memoir sequel to Infidel (2007).

Ali has major issues with Islam, as would any civilized woman who endured circumcision and genital mutilation as a child, was entombed in a chador, and affianced to an older man she never met.  As a Somali refuge growing up in Kenya and Ethiopia, Ali received just enough education to question and developed just enough courage to flee. Her journey to the West took her first to The Netherlands, where she got a thorough education, got elected to Parliament, wrote a movie script, and endured the horror of seeing director friend Theo van Gogh murdered by Islamists, and herself made the target of a fatwa.  That threat, plus encounters with a Dutch-style political vendetta, led Ali to relocate to the United States, where she employs bodyguards to protect her from the legions of Muslim males who would love to collect their spiritual rewards for killing her. She doesn’t like having bodyguards, but states, “…it’s better than being dead. It’s also better than wearing a headscarf or a veil, which to me represents the mental and physical restrictions that so many Muslim women have to suffer.” (277)

Ali doesn't wish to play nice. “Islam is imbued with violence, and it encourages violence,” says she. (202) It’s also a religion marred by anti-Semitism, and intolerance, rejects Enlightenment values, and “is based on a book, the Quran, that denies women basic human rights….” (133) Ali lets the words of the Quran, the teachings of Muhammad, and the practices of the devout to make her case that Islam is, at its core, misogynist. She describes a worldview that sounds as if was sifted from the sands of antiquity. “According to the Quaran,” she writes, a “husband is permitted to beat [women] and decide whether they may word or leave the house; he may marry other women without seeking their approval, and if he chooses to divorce them, they have no right to resist or to keep custody of their children.” (133) Even more horrifying, if he decides his wife or daughter has disgraced the family name, he can murder her and walk free.

Muslim men immigrating to the West will not walk free if they murder, but she insists that only the blind assert that such “honor killings” don’t happen on Western soil.  Ali sees a veritable clash of civilizations between Islam and the non-Islamic world. She cautions Westerners not to be lulled into thinking that their values convert Muslims living among them–most Muslim immigrants, she asserts, come to the West either to escape refuge camps or for economic opportunity, but they have no respect for Western values and no loyalty to the lands that adopt them. This is true of her own family; despite her success, family members curse her as a whore over the telephone in one breath, and demand she send them money the next.

Ali now works for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think-tank. If you wonder why she’d go such a route, it’s because she reserves some of her harshest criticism for mushy-headed supporters of multiculturalism and for American feminists (the latter of whom she sees as cowardly). “American liberals appear to be more uncomfortable with my condemning of the ill treatment of women under Islam than most conservatives,” she charges. Instead, they “look down at their shoes when faced with questions about cultural differences.” (106) She wonders why liberals valorize the civil rights movement, but spout clichés about “affirming the values of tribal lifestyles” in the name of multiculturalism. Ali calls the “multiculturalist belief that … culture should somehow be preserved, even when its products move to Western societies ... a recipe for social failure.” (213) She is positively contemptuous of American feminists, whose cultural relativism she sees as anathema to the gender equity values they purport to hold.

Don’t preserve Islam, she implores, defeat and dismantle it. This, in her mind, is a matter or urgency. She sees radical Islam as ascendant and cites studies that show 50% of American Muslims identify more strongly with their religion than with the United Sates, and that one of four under the age of 30 justifies suicide bombing against Americans to defend Islam.  It’s time, she argues, to stop excusing Islamic barbarity. She acknowledges there are many decent individual Muslims, but they only become so be repudiating the core teachings of Islam.

Ali’s message is unsettling and raises the hackles of those who endorse ecumenicalism and cultural diversity. Needless to say Muslims view Ali­­–who now identifies as an atheist–as a heretic. Some of Ali’s ‘solutions,’ such as more education, seem hopelessly hackneyed, and a few are just weird–such as imploring the Catholic Church to evangelize Muslim lands. For one who has been a politician, Ali also sometimes seems politically naïve. (Why, she asks, does the West retain ties to nations that harbor anti-Western ideologues? Ummm… oil?) There’s plenty to criticize, including Ali’s flat prose. But we ought to pay very close attention to what she says. I couldn’t help but draw analogies between Ali’s take on the current state of Islam and Europe in the 1920s, when fascism seemed more annoying than threatening.