As with Malcolm and Marie, released earlier this year, Locked Down was made entirely under lockdown conditions and features a couple at war with each other.
But whereas that earlier film was set in Californian movie land before the pandemic, this unusual romantic comedy is made and set in London and is about the effects on its characters of being trapped in lockdown itself. Considering director Doug Liman and the screenwriter Steven Knight came up with the idea in July, found cast and finance by September and finished shooting by the end of October it’s a pretty glossy offering.
Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anne Hathaway play Paxton and Linda, whose relationship is on the rocks after ten years together but they can’t split because of the lockdown laws. And they are both suffering under the strain.
Paxton (Ejiofor), a hellraising biker and poet when they first met, is now a delivery driver on furlough, who tries to relieve his frustration with life and the tedium of lockdown by spouting poetry to his neighbours in the middle of the street where they live – a posh London venue of expensive four/five story terraced houses. Probably paid for by Linda (Hathaway) who heads up an American media firm’s London branch. Her disenchantment with her job is exacerbated by having to work from home, particularly when, under instructions from her somewhat slimy boss in America (Ben Stiller), she is forced to “let go” her entire London team via Zoom link meeting.
Things come to a head when Paxton is persuaded by his boss Malcolm (Ben Kingsley) to break his furlough and do an urgent job, which as it turns out involves Linda, who is supervising the move of a load of expensive goodies from Harrods into storage so they don’t get nicked during lockdown. In this consignment is a $3 million diamond due to be delivered to some brutal and unworthy dictator, who is not going to miss it and which it would be incredibly easy for them to steal – and give some of the proceeds to the NHS – naturally. Which is when the film moves out of the claustrophobia of the home into a heist set in your actual Harrods – available for filming because of the lockdown! The situation then raises several questions. Will Paxton and Linda steal the diamond; if they do will they get away with it? And will it finish or save their relationship?
One of the features of the film is that the characters are wittily verbose and literate – which may not be everyone’s cup of tea but I delighted in it – including an ongoing joke about Edgar Allen Poe. You don’t get one of those very often in a movie. The script gives Ejiofor and Hathaway some great lines and indeed speeches, which they deliver with relish in the context of engaging and assured performances inside an offbeat but authentic feeling relationship.
The early part of the film makes great use of the horrors of virtual communication via Zoom and such, which, we as I write, we are still lumbered with – a technique which embraces Covid-safe, “screen within a screen” performances from guest stars such as the aforesaid Ben Stiller, Mark Gatiss as one of Linda’s axed team and most notably Kingsley, giving a brilliant cameo as the dodgy but devotedly Christian delivery firm boss, who begins every video call with a prayer, before he then goes on to outline his latest scam.
“Locked Down” is available from participating digital retailers