Locked Down is quintessential movie-made-during-quarantine. The film, now streaming on HBO Max, was conceived and developed quickly over the Summer of 2020 by director Doug Liman and writer Steven Knight. It stars Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor, a married couple who decided to call it quits just as London went into full lockdown. Now, as they’re both circling the drain of their own and each others’ misery, Linda and Paxton find themselves with an opportunity to commit a diamond heist only conceivable during COVID-times.
Locked Down is, at its heart, a sweet, introspective, romantic comedy between two exceptional actors, wrapped inside of a silly heist movie. At first, I was admittedly really turned off by Locked Down. It was conceived and produced over the summer when things were pretty different culturally. We still banged pots outside when the nurses changed shifts. We enjoyed, somewhat, having frequent Zoom catchups with old friends or playing games with family. Now, we’re a bit well-beyond that. I, for one, feeling more frustrated and cynical than I did 6-8 months ago.
But as the film’s first two acts went on, I found myself weirdly nostalgic for that period in quarantine. We were more naive then. The characters don’t have masks on half the time because they are still hard to come by, and there is no consensus on whether they are useful or not. There seemed like a brighter light and a shorter tunnel at the time. This weird yearning for a more naive time mixed with a stark universal exacerbation of people not following rules, pretending things are normal, and utterly misunderstanding other people’s needs during this time. And everybody seems to be in constant introspection but refusing to really talk about it in any meaningful way, which absolutely reflects the experience of so many over the past 10 months or so. Ultimately, I found all of these elements rather successful.
That said, I do not think I can bear to watch another piece of quarantine content after Locked Down. Its context would have likely been very affecting several months ago. While it still worked on me, its context was absolutely waning in effect by this point in the pandemic. In a post-vaccination world, I don’t think that I will want to be reminded of how truly terrible things were, personally, culturally, and communally during the height of the pandemic last summer. Not in a piece of entertainment such as this, anyway.
And a big part of why I won’t be able to look back on this type of content later is because of how harrowing Hathaway and Ejiofor’s performances are. They absolutely and fully embody the constant cartwheels of the mind brought upon by lockdown. Sure, their personal and professional circumstances are relatable on different ends of a spectrum. But it’s the way they feel just as trapped emotionally as they are physically that is most difficult to engage with. Their being stuck together after breaking up is dramatic, but the way the pandemic trapping people indoors feels like a metaphor for being trapped in life is rather astute.
I must say that the poetic way Hathaway and Ejiofor speak is a bit stilted, especially considering all the other realistic parts of their performances, like Hathaway’s messy hair and pajamas under dress shirts and Ejiofor’s utter nihilism. Yes, Paxton is a poet, so I can somewhat excuse his language, and Linda has lived with him for a long time, so maybe it has rubbed off some. But it just feels very scripted in its eloquence. However, if you can suspend your disbelief, it’s a well-written script for certain, and it is delivered excellently.
Locked Down is also a movie that could absolutely only happen in quarantine. The heist itself is only possible because of the unique circumstances, and the film used that well to its advantage. It’s not particularly thrilling of a concept, but that feels like less of the point. The dark romantic comedy side of the film feels like the true forefront, and what Linda and Paxton are trying to steal is less a diamond and more the love and joy they lost in their relationship and lives as a whole. And to be clear, Paxton and Linda are the worst thieves, and the heist sequence absolutely absurd, but it’s so well-acted and so much more a moment of a romantic comedy than a serious heist that it just works perfectly.
The film’s use of Zoom camera angles and sound effects is definitely well-done, and I hope it will continue to be taken advantage of in the future. Now that we’re all completely at-one with Zoom and similar virtual products, things like using a laptop camera, having awkward angles, audio feedback from two people being in the same room, and so on are just normal things now. They fit very well into the context of Locked Down, but they are going to be an important part of authentic storytelling going forward. And this movie does it better than other quarantine content I have watched.
Locked Down may be very of-the-moment, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good for the moment. I can’t imagine tolerating much of the film in a post-COVID world, but for now, Hathaway and Ejiofor are excellent, its breakdown of how we’re all coping with the times is near flawless, and the hyperbolic package the blending of genres delivers is entirely entertaining, even if a bit corny. The various guest appearances from beloved actors help too, but ultimately, as a romantic comedy, Locked Down is a really sweet and introspective moment in the sun for these dour times.
Locked Down is now streaming on HBO Max.
Locked Down may be very of-the-moment, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t good for the moment. I can’t imagine tolerating much of the film in a post-COVID world, but for now, Hathaway and Ejiofor are excellent, its breakdown of how we’re all coping with the times is near flawless, and the hyperbolic package the blending of genres delivers is entirely entertaining, even if a bit corny. The various guest appearances from beloved actors helps too.