Another unwelcome reminder of things lost and promises not kept
LOCKED DOWN (2021)
Locked Down was announced in September of 2020 and is a comedy heist film starring Anne Hathaway, set against the backdrop of the UK Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. Filmed a month later, though not the first coronavirus film, it is possibly the biggest and most mainstream. That said, is a reminder of 2020 and its many restrictions something anyone is asking for?
Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow, American Made) is in the director’s seat, handling his stars confined in their house with almost too much precision by capturing moments we know all too well (an early scene features Anne Hathaway’s Linda running a zoom call with her employees). It’s unbearable and hyper realistic, with screaming kids in the background, talk of furloughing and redundancies, and weird chit chat about each other’s homes. Maintaining a serious tone throughout, there is little comedy to be found in the film, however, touches of mania are handled well, often portrayed through his view of a drunk Linda, broken down and at the end of her tether.
Trapped in their London home together, Linda and Paxton are not just facing covid-19 restrictions, but the breakdown of their relationship. Living in different rooms, struggling not to bicker, struggling not to cast blame and lay claim to who is more miserable, they are clawing through the day. When their various jobs cross over, Linda, who is disillusioned with corporate life, realises there’s a way she could punish her company and help them both out – when a precious jewel needs to be moved from Harrods, they could steal it.
It’s an interesting concept that unfortunately fails to take off. Taking almost 80 of the 120 minute runtime to get to the heist element of the plot, screenwriter Steven Knight instead languishes in a highlight reel of lockdown in the UK that no-one wants to remember. Newsreels play in the background, Linda joins her neighbours in the never-ending claps for the NHS, we see queues outside stores, and people bulk buying toilet rolls. Perhaps for an American audience these may produce an odd chuckle, but the majority of humour feels dry and stale.
This may be a case of poor representation; perhaps it oversold its premise. Marketed as a heist comedy starring Anne Hathaway, you can’t help to go in with certain expectations, and the plot fails to match aside from the last 15 or so minutes.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
Much of the runtime is spent with our leads, Hathaway’s Linda and her partner Paxton played by Chiwetel Ejiofor. Whilst Hathaway has some of the best and most manic moments in the film, the chemistry between the pair is almost non-existent, and they feel like they are in different films. The pair are meant to be at the end of their relationship, but it fails to convey how the pair ever worked together or give us any reason to root for their future, aside from they are stuck living together. There are plenty of monologues from both as they argue and bicker, over analysing their relationship, their life choices, and all of the existential thoughts one has in lockdown. However, the energy of each performance is unbalanced by the other and both characters feel wildly inconsistent. There are a couple of brilliant one liners and a ton of zoom cameos from the likes of Ben Stiller and Mindy Kaling, but the central pairing fails to infuse the humour or passion that is necessary in a script that feels in need of a second draft.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
Far more interesting than the film itself is the making of the film. When the plot eventually moves to the heist in Harrods, it turns into a gorgeous adventure. To have that dining hall to myself, the dream. Every sequence set in the building is dreamlike, and it feels a rare treat to see it so empty, quiet, and special. How Liman and his team arranged this collaboration is unknown to me, but this more than anything else in the film feels like a true artifact of time worth documenting. The whole sequence is stunning, and I miss London oh so much.
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
There are some wonderful moments of music as Linda has a manic drunk dance party in the garden or Paxton speeds though the city on his motorbike, but where the sound design truly shines, almost as if to taunt its viewers, is through the use of sound on the various zoom calls. The tinny speech, the incomprehensible multiple voices, and that damned pinging doorbell. And please do not talk to me about that unbearable NHS pot banging sequence... It’s a sound that will haunt my dreams.
It’s clear Locked Down wanted to seize a moment and be an opportunity to celebrate what film crews on a smaller scale were capable of. Perhaps the cast and crew wanted to turn their experiences into art as so many of us have wanted to over the past year. Unfortunately, what it actually provides for those based in the UK where the film is set, but also those throughout the world, is an unhelpful and unwanted reminder of what we’ve already been through. For many like myself, what we are still living through. By highlighting the timeline in such a specific moment of the UK Covid-19 lockdown (NHS claps, PM Boris Johnson contracting Covid-19) it feels dated instantly. Its ending attempts to offer hope of a future, one that has already not come true. Instead it’s another unwelcome reminder of things lost and promises not kept.
LOCKED DOWN Premieres January 14th on HBO MAX