Locked Down evaluate: Doug Liman’s romantic heist is the most effective COVID film to this point

Vital moments in historical past have at all times been immortalized via movie, and we are able to count on that to be true for the COVID-19 pandemic as nicely. After America’s first stay-at-home order in March, American studios needed to adapt rapidly to maintain pumping out content material, and one tactic was incorporating COVID into the tales they had been telling. COVID-era leisure quickly advanced from Zoom cast-reunion specials and season finales to in-person productions that both replicate the present occasions, with haphazard masks utilization and social-justice storylines, or present life as regular. These tales have both been set within the early days of the pandemic, or elevated it to a catastrophic occasion nonetheless occurring years from now. Although some early-days reveals have been comforting, they’ve tried to replicate on the state of affairs whereas it was nonetheless ongoing: Hulu’s Love within the Time of Corona and Netflix’s Social Distance got here out in summer time and fall respectively, when vaccines had been nonetheless in trial phases, and governments had been nonetheless unclear on precisely how critically to deal with the virus.

The brand new HBO Max movie Locked Down appears to be like on the COVID-19 pandemic with extra distance. The movie takes place within the early days of the pandemic, throughout what seems to be the U.Ok.’s preliminary stay-at-home order. Everybody besides important employees are confined to their homes, together with central couple Linda (Anne Hathaway) and Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor). Linda has simply damaged up with Paxton, however they’re self-isolating collectively out of necessity, whereas Paxton is on furlough from his courier job and Linda is working remotely. The majority of the movie reveals them combating the whole upheaval of their each day routines and loads of time spent collectively in a confined house. Reasonably than being miserable or overly nihilistic, Locked Down fills the state of affairs with a dry humor and slight absurdity which, mixed with the space from the start of the pandemic, makes the movie the most effective COVID-related piece of media to come back out to this point.

Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor look through the jewelry counter in a store in Locked Down

Photograph: HBO

The massive distinction between Locked Down and former COVID reveals and movies is that it doesn’t must consolation its viewers. Most COVID media to this point has served both as an escape from each day pandemic life, or a case research of how one can get via it. Locked Down was filmed in September and October beneath strict COVID protocols, and is being launched right into a world with a viable vaccine, with tangible proof that the pandemic might be over sometime. As a substitute of the earnestness and “we are able to get via this” pathos of earlier COVID media, Locked Down displays the darkish aspect of self-isolating: the ingesting, uncertainty, and complaining. The broadly acquainted references to pointless Zoom conferences and bread-baking are funnier now than they’d have been in March.

In the beginning of the movie, Linda and Paxton are clearly depressing and struggling to simply get via every day. Paxton has been spending his furlough venting to kin on FaceTime and going out into the road to carry out poetry for his neighbors, who both get pleasure from it, or curse at him. Linda continues to be employed as CEO of a division of a sketchy conglomerate, however she’s crumbling beneath the moral calls for of the job, together with having to fireside coworkers. By means of a collection of coincidences over per week’s time, Linda and Paxton find yourself with entry to Harrods division retailer, and a plan to steal a £three million diamond and stop their depressing jobs.

It’s an absurd setup, however the plot shenanigans match with the movie’s vibe of private anguish managed throughout chaos, heightened by elevated language and a little bit of farce that results in Paxton assuming a false identification as “Edgar Allan Poe.” Written by Peaky Blinders creator Steven Knight and directed by Doug Liman, Locked Down has the heightened language of a play, suffused with dry British humor and a little bit of nihilism. With Liman’s course, the state of the leads’ relationship drives the movie as a lot because the heist components, much like his earlier movies Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Fringe of Tomorrow. Hathaway and Ejiofor give glorious performances, particularly Hathaway, who expertly handles Linda’s gradual unraveling. The remainder of the solid, largely showing by way of video-conference, contains Mark Gatiss, Stephen Service provider, Dulé Hill, Mindy Kaling, and Ben Kingsley, although there are just a few extra sturdy solid surprises.

Although the supporting solid supplies a lot of the movie’s comedy, the most effective scenes come from the conversations between Linda and Paxton. Spurred by the additional time to suppose throughout lockdown, each characters take a great have a look at their lives and notice that they hate the place they’ve ended up. Linda doesn’t catastrophize as a lot as Paxton at first — Knight’s script implies that she’s needed to be the grownup within the room since initiating their breakup — however they each wish to change their stations in life, approaching a want for freedom from their circumstances. Knight and Liman don’t supply a lot details about how they acquired so far of their lives, past bare-bones affirmation of how they met, and the way lengthy they’ve been collectively. However the clean areas add a bit common taste to the story, whilst these particular characters go from a reasonably acquainted state of affairs (let’s simply keep away from one another in the home) to an outlandish one. (Let’s rob Harrods!)

Anne Hathaway holds up a small object in Harrods in Locked Down

Photograph: HBO

The Harrods heist portion of the romance/heist film/darkish comedy is condensed into the final 40 minutes of the movie, and it’s price spending the primary 80 minutes questioning whether or not it can ever really occur. The tonal shift matches the motion from a confined home to a big division retailer, however the rigidity stays on the similar stage, even because the leads transition from a duo at odds to a crew. The heist phase additionally options essentially the most romantic moments between the couple options a lot of the film’s large humor incorporates essentially the most levity within the film, with each the characters and the course reveling within the change from confinement to a free house. Even the viewers will get some kid-in-a-candy-store delight via osmosis.

The cinematography stays tight on Hathaway and Ejiofor all through the movie, which Liman shoots largely with close-ups and monitoring pictures, mirroring the leads’ confinement to their home. Conserving the angles shut lets Liman maintain the strain excessive, although he lastly permits some vast pictures as soon as the movie strikes to Harrods. These selections deliver a way of claustrophobia to every scene, making the characters’ anguish extra of a setting than the precise home they reside in. The lighting additionally builds on the psychological sense of confinement, with a lot of the scenes filmed with low or indoor gentle. Even the soundtrack, or lack thereof, offers the movie a way of suspended time: the rating’s evolution from silent-movie-style piano to start with to a cooler electric-guitar rating is the one trace of passing time in addition to the change between night time and day. The one time a music with lyrics comes on, it looks like an interruption to the movie’s stasis, much like a window breaking.

Locked Down doesn’t match into a straightforward style categorization. It’s a practical sufficient depiction of how individuals fought, laughed, and cried amid the confusion and lack of routine in early days of the pandemic. The movie’s worth on its day of launch comes from recognition of all of the shared circumstances of the pandemic that haven’t been spoken aloud but. After a yr of attempting to remain constructive, laughing alongside to sarcasm and self-woe is a launch. Locked Down additionally meets the aim of immortalization; of all of the pandemic media launched during the last 10 months, individuals will seemingly return to this movie as essentially the most lifelike depiction of the early days of COVID.

Past that, it’s additionally a darkish comedy, a post-breakup exploration, and a comparatively low-stakes heist movie. All of that takes place in a really real-world state of affairs, however it infuses the state of affairs with a small quantity of levity and absurdity. It’s an bold story that acknowledges that it takes place in a society the place all the standard guidelines have been turned on its head, and regular’s gone out of the window. It isn’t comforting, however it’s a mannequin for the inevitable future COVID films to come back.

Locked Down is now streaming on HBO Max.

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