- Emma Simmonds
- 10 March 2021
Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor head up a hastily assembled but ultimately enjoyable pandemic-set caper
This made in the pandemic, set in the pandemic caper from director Doug Liman (Edge of Tomorrow) and screenwriter Steven Knight (Peaky Blinders) sees a former couple throw caution to the wind when they embark upon a daring heist during lockdown. Revolving around characters played by Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor, and featuring a host of starry cameos, the film might riff on problems we all face, but in its hasty production and pie-in-the-sky shenanigans it's a bit of a laugh, nothing more.
In all honesty, it doesn't begin promisingly. As Linda and Paxton (Hathaway and Ejiofor) pace their spacious London town house ranting and reflecting, it feels a bit pretentious and privileged. Trapped together during lockdown but with their relationship clearly over, the pandemic has exacerbated the pair's mental fragility and disdain for each other. The American-born Linda is the British CEO of a global marketing company, who hates her job and has to endure numerous, very well-observed Zoom calls, which involve her gritting her teeth as she talks to her obnoxious boss (played by Ben Stiller), being forced to fire colleagues (including Mark Gatiss' Donald), while at one point she's told that her face has 'frozen in a look of exasperation'.
Paxton, on the other hand, is working as a delivery driver for the slightly shady Malcolm (Ben Kingsley, sporting his Sexy Beast accent) and is frustrated that his criminal record has held him back career-wise. The stars align when he's asked to transport a pricey diamond from a Harrods event that Linda has organised, and the peculiar circumstances of lockdown give them an opportunity to steal it. 'Live wild or die, Linda,' Paxton tells her as they weigh it up.
Knight has stripped things back before, and quite successfully in 2013's Tom Hardy vehicle Locke, and here the writer combines a simple setting with his taste for outlandish plotting (evident in the terrible Serenity, TV's Taboo and the aforementioned Blinders). Sadly, Locked Down bears many of the hallmarks of a film made on the fly (it was conceived just six weeks before they started shooting and was shot in a mere 18 days, with Knight writing as they went); for example, the central relationship scarcely seems credible, the plot isn't exactly airtight, and the soul-searching doesn't come off.
Yet the pandemic-induced hysteria is infused with an entertaining irreverence, which keeps things amusing and escapist, rather than more of the depressing same, and there's plenty of novelty in the video call guest appearances (which also include Mindy Kaling and Claes Bang). Hathaway, in particular, seems to be having a fantastic time as she lives permanently in her pyjama bottoms and turns unashamedly to booze, while the 'confession avalanches' are a hoot. It's nowhere near as accomplished and imaginative as lockdown horror Host, but as meltdowns give way to liberation, it's hard to begrudge the way the film fashions some fun out of a real slog of a situation.
Available to watch on premium video on demand from Thu 11 Mar.