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‘Locked Down’ Showcases Enjoyable Performances From Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor – Review

As most of us have now experienced prolonged quarantining and lockdowns in 2020 (which has carried over into the new year) the last thing one would want to watch is a reminder of the hellish year we’ve had. A film about others experiencing the exact things we all have just been through might be too much. However, Doug Liman might have come up with something that addresses the unease we’ve felt with a dash of the absurd. If this is something that does interest you, perhaps a viewing of the HBO Max original film, Locked Down might be for you. 

The story of Locked Down focuses on a couple who are in the process of separating when the quarantine orders are put into effect in London, England. Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are trapped together and their current cohabitation is less than ideal. The two are barely coping with being stuck with one another with Paxton being furloughed from his job and Linda is doing the work-from-home routine, but it’s about to get ugly in the worst way possible. 

Locked Down - Cast
Anne Hathaway as Linda and Chiwetel Ejiofor as Paxton in Locked Down (Courtesy of HBO Max)

Doing their best to remain in their own respective spaces and keep from quarrelling (which is easier said than done), Linda and Paxton find themselves brought together in the most unexpected of ways. Enter the ritzy department store, Harrods and an expensive diamond – which makes for an intriguing potential heist for the former couple. But will they be successful? Well, you’ll just have to watch the film to find out.

Liman who has given us high-concept films such as Mr. & Mrs. Smith and Edge of Tomorrow, gives us Locked Down which unlike other heist films, as it is rooted in our current reality. It has the advantage of using London’s COVID-19 landscape as the backdrop which provides the cast and crew the freedom to shoot in the now quiet city and ground the story in a recognizable reality. Creativity really is birthed from disaster.

Interestingly enough, the confluence of reality and fiction works in this film’s favour to an extent. I will have to be honest, when I first heard about the film and the synopsis, I didn’t necessarily think it was the best idea. The pandemic isn’t something that should be glamorized in any way, shape or form. For the most part, writer Steven Knight made sure that the movie included some of the real elements of the pandemic that many have experienced including the deterioration of mental health due to being a frontline worker, losing jobs, being cooped up inside and being stressed out about how everything is going.

These moments of truth served to be some of the better moments in the film, however, these moments were few and far between. There is an acknowledgment of the seriousness of the current state of things, so tonally the film is on very shaky ground. For some, it will be an odd release from the stress, and for others it might be a little much.

Still from Locked Down (Courtesy of HBO Max)

In terms of the cast, Hathaway and Ejiofor work really well together. They’re believable in their roles as a couple who have come at a crossroads in their relationship and are unfortunately forced to sequester during the pandemic. The respective stories for each of the characters they portray is well done, and you truly get a sense of who they are and how they navigate the world during the pandemic and what the pair were like prior to it. The hints of their past life and the love they shared were intriguing and I wish that we were able to get a little more of that. The emotional beats (which are compelling when they arise) don’t last nearly long enough. However, Ejiofor and Hathaway do the best that they can with the material they are given – which unfortunately is not much.

The film would have served better if it remained in solely the heist lane or the romance lane. The blending of both doesn’t really work as well as I’d have liked it to. Part of which is due to the pacing of the film. The majority of the heist elements are left to the third act of the film and the build-up to the moment is never quite felt. The slow-burn doesn’t really work as so much of the relationship drama, and each characters personal issues are drawn out. The point in which their two separate situations collide and result in the heist idea being formed takes too long despite it being foreshadowed very early on.

With some good points at the start, Locked Down had the potential to be good and while there are moments that make for a compelling film, it doesn’t come together in the most cohesive manner. The film loses its way in the middle, and tries to pull things back for a decent ending. However, while perhaps better late than never is a good motto, that isn’t necessarily the case for Locked Down even with the enjoyable performances from Ejiofor and Hathaway. The intensity with which the actors perform will also pull people in. Despite the issues in the overall structure and presentation of the film, it will find an audience. An audience that is interested in the art birthed from this pandemic.

Locked Down premieres on HBO Max on January 14, 2021.

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