Doug Liman returns to the director’s chair to tell a timely story of living during a pandemic that bizarrely disconnects itself from the real world turmoil by attempting to develop two completely different stories. Locked Down is seemingly a film at odds with itself as Steven Knight’s sporadic script takes you on a discombobulated adventure that fails to amaze. Chiwetel Ejiofor and Anne Hathaway take center stage as the film’s main leads and although their talents are sadly squandered, they functionally remain as the best components of the film. Both play conflicted characters caught at a crossroads that would have made for an interesting concept on its own, but unfortunately, the film chooses to forgo those possibilities through strange decisions. Liman’s bombastic signature style is never fully realized in this tame film and Knight’s strange script is absolutely at fault. Locked Down’s narrative could have been something special as it truly is the first in a line of many films that will be centered around the lockdown the world is currently enduring. However, this film does nothing to speak on the actual events transpiring today and refrains from being a high octane quarantine heist film. Instead, it positions itself between two great ideas and does not succeed in telling either of them separately or as a whole.
Locked Down brings us into the ordinary lives of Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) who are a distant couple that has fallen out of love with one another at quite possibly one of the worst times imaginable. Paxton grips with the realities of losing everything while trying to evolve and become a better person than he has been for the past decade. Linda on the other hand has achieved her goals and climbed the corporate ladder all the way to the top but now finds herself at odds with her own self-identity. However, being cooped up in a home and living on two different floors is exactly what this estranged pair needed as together in unison they begin finding out why they fell in love with each other so long ago. This revelation is fully realized when Linda devises a scheme to rob her employer blind by stealing a precious diamond worth millions. But, this plan can only be pulled off with the help of the man she deeply loves the most, Paxton. Throughout the film, we witness how Linda and Paxton go from being physically and mentally withdrawn to finally realizing that what always existed between them.
With Locked Down effectively providing the audience with two focal characters in Linda and Paxton, it is of the utmost importance that not only are they both interesting & captivating on their own with unique individual stories, but that they also share a united narrative thread that keeps their interactions engaging. Luckily for the film, in spite of its narrative pitfalls, Ejiofor and Hathaway help invigorate the script in ways it desperately needs. Given the circumstances at the start of the film, neither character wants anything to do with the other so it makes sympathizing with their relationship a tad bit difficult because we have no initial basis for understanding what romantic life the two used to share. However, as the story progresses, we get small peeks into what used to be and what could be between Linda and Paxton by way of small details sprinkled throughout. Even in the dialogue Knight manages to show the complexities of relationships to a serviceable level that feels somewhat believable and at times quite funny. Sadly, all of it winds up falling flat because Linda and Paxton as characters are almost total polar opposites that never feel closely connected. For all of the good Ejiofor and Hathaway provide in their respective roles, the chemistry between these stars is challenging to find. Barring a couple of minor scenes that occur near the tail end of the film, Ejiofor and Hathaway never appear to be romantic lovers throughout its nearly two-hour runtime, and the script fails to convey any deep emotions to support them. Instead, Ejiofor and Hathaway, and by extension, their characters, ultimately end up appearing as nothing more than people who are simply forced to interact due to the current conditions.
Locked Down is an utterly baffling film at its core because of one single problem, the plot. Steven Knight constructs a story that feels entirely too disconnected from itself that it reaches lengths of unbelievability which hurts the overall quality of the work on several levels. Upon reading the brief synopsis for Locked Down found on the title screen of HBO Max I was intrigued, but after a quick glance at the overview on IMDb, I was truly confused. Unsure of what to make of the film, I jumped in with an open mind and found myself at a loss for words. On one hand, the film wishes to explore the complications of love and romance under the most disastrous of circumstances. But on the other hand, the film wants to be a smart high-octane heist film set in arguably one of the best times to pull off such a crime. Unfortunately, neither of those ideas were executed well enough and the final product suffered because of it. Had Ejiofor and Hathaway’s talents been fully utilized to capture this tumultuous moment we are all living through it could have been something special. A film of introspection centered around finding oneself and discovering some of the dark and hidden truths about one keeps that they often neglect could have been masterful. Alternatively, a well thought out and calculated heist film set in the vacancy of the open-world could have also been excited and fun. However, the film ventures to do both when it simply can not. Fleeting moments of reflection are put forth and handled, but they are never fully addressed and expanded upon because once the second half of the film commences it decides to derail into a subpar heist movie that asks you to suspend your disbelief to incredible lengths. Without a clear line of focus, the film winds up devolving, as in an attempt to do two things at once, Locked Down finds itself unable to do either successfully.
Locked Down is a film that serves as a true prisoner of the moment in all of the worst ways possible. Liman is not given the opportunity to direct a film that plays into his biggest strengths and pairing that with Knight’s messy script only adds to the disappointment. Ejiofor and Hathaway seem to do the best they can with what they have and it works very well at times while collapsing into nothingness in others. A wide cast of expert talent is also present throughout the film who are all equally squandered in ways that will make you question why they were present in the first place. However, if one wishes to sit back and watch a decent film without getting lost in thought on the film’s shortcomings, what is presented is just fine. The bottom line is, Locked Down struggles with grasping a tonal through line because it spreads itself thin by trying to do so much with so little by never addressing anything worth while.