Locked Down is a gaggle of scenarios from the world of the COVID-19 pandemic that turns into a heist movie in the last 30 minutes or so. It is mostly a chatty character piece with two quirky lead characters trading barbs about dealing with crushing isolation in lockdown. This is an interesting artifact of the early lockdown era on London and what affect it had on people in a comedic twist, a bunch of celebrity cameo zoom calls filling in scenes in between, and then a somewhat low key heist. It is sort of two movies pasted on top of each other, relationship dramedy and heist movie, but the immediacy of the pandemic lockdown setting is unique as it manages to be mostly enjoyable.
Couple Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are in lockdown in London and their relationship is over, although they’re stuck in the same house. She is a CEO who endures firing people over Zoom and he’s a truck driver who has been furloughed and is without employment. When the fancy Harrods department store is closing Paxton’s old boss, Malcom (Ben Kingsley) needs truckers. Although since Paxton is a convicted felon, he is given a fake ID that is irritatingly labeled “Edgar Alan Poe”. Surprisingly, Linda is involved in the store shutting down and she realizes a precious diamond is being moved and they could steal it. However, even as they are falling apart as a couple, they have to come together and potentially change their lives.
This would be a slog if it wasn’t for Hathaway and Ejiofor who engagingly bounce off each other. They’re having different reactions to the lockdown; Linda is more introverted as her frustration is coming out in weird bursts. Paxton is constantly loud about how unendurable his condition is, close to being annoying but Ejiofor manages to make Paxton endearing. Each represents different aspect of lockdown life. Paxton is jobless and trying to find outputs for his energy, taking to the streets to read poetry to his neighbours. Linda is still working every day, throwing on business attire on her torso for the Zoom meetings combined with pajama bottoms and flip flops. She’s started smoking again and the confession comes spilling out of her all at once in a fantastic, rambling monologue that Hathaway absolutely nails. Hathaway has a few bits that are enjoyable, like when she’s trying to propose the heist without actually saying a crime out loud.
There are some good observations about the business video conferencing purgatory people are living in. Paxton’s boss is hopelessly inept at video calls, keeping his phone on portrait mode and pointed as his forehead most of the time. Even in a small expositional role, Kingsley makes the character memorable. When there’s a video call with Linda’s co-workers some of them are actually very proud of the fact they have suits and shoes on. This is one of the scenes best as Linda has to immediately fire them all and the bitterness as she does it is palatable. A few familiar faces show up in the internet video chats, Ben Stiller as Linda’s boss is a truly shallow individual pontificating bland platitudes when Linda is the one who has to fire people. Mindy Kaling is in one scene in a business call where she basically just plays her bubbly yet snarky character form The Office. One sub-plot involves Paxton’s half-brother in the USA and a woman who Linda had a close encounter and, frankly, the whole plot feels superfluous.
Despite being set during the COVID-19 pandemic there isn’t a lot of mask acting, the movie feels set early on before mask usage was widespread as at one point all Paxton has to make do with is an old bandanna. There is a scene later when Paxton and Linda start their heist and Linda is wearing a mask which has Hathaway using her eyes and body language to convey emotion. A running gag is Paxton wants to buy flour so he can finally bake bread like so many people in the pandemic and Linda is just irritated at the notion which is a good laugh that pays off in a mid-credits scene.
Stylistically, near the end it switches and becomes a heist movie. It shows the filmmakers are self-aware enough to know is two genres mashed together. The first half is very much a comedy/drama quipping with a minimal usage of music. There’s very static camera and the leisurely place conveys the lockdown is making the duo listless. By the time it flips over to the heist movie, suddenly the very cool score by John Powell kicks in, and the camera is sweeping across the department store while Linda and Paxton’s crazy scheme is unfolding. It’s not a glamourous heist, but it is suitably tense.
While it has a great, current issues hook, Locked Down ultimately is a two person romantic comedy that veers into heist movie in the third act. The two leads being very solid thespians and a quip filled script makes it seem more energetic than it actually is. It’s not a great movie but it is a comprehensive look at a strange time.
Director: Doug Liman
Starring: Chiwetel Ejiofor, Anne Hathaway and Ben Kingsley