You only see one person throughout the movie Locke (out now in select Canadian cities, and opening wide throughout the spring).
Fortunately, that person is Tom Hardy. The drama about a carefully controlled man and his carefully controlled life slowly falling apart over 90 minutes — over the phone, no less — is a singular story that never leaves the confines of a car.
And yet, Locke is completely riveting because of the way it engages the imagination. The mind needs no fancy sets or special effects.
Locke is a rarity, but it's not the only film that focuses on only one person. Whether the hero is alone in a car, on a raft, in a shallow grave (!) or in space, the common themes in all such movies are isolation, the struggle to survive and redemption of one sort or another.
Here are ten movies that let us celebrate being alone together:
Ryan Reynolds wakes up to find himself buried alive in Iraq with only his cellphone (low battery!) and a lighter. There are political overtones to filmmaker Rodrigo Cortes' claustrophobic and gripping drama about loneliness and the human condition. Reynolds is superb, but the movie was too dark for many people.
127 Hours (2010)
James Franco portrays real-life survivor Aron Ralston, a mountain climber who lay trapped for days by a fallen boulder and who eventually saved himself by amputating his own arm. Hello! There are one or two other people who pop up in the narrative, but Franco is the focus, and he's terrific here. Identifying with the character's dilemma and fight for life keeps you invested throughout.
Swimming To Cambodia (1987)
The late Spalding Gray made a handful of engaging movies that consist, more or less, of him talking and telling stories. These monologues are different from the other movies on the list, because the drama and tension here are based on everyday (well, more or less) events. Still, Gray's incisive, humourous and poignant observations about the human condition draw most of the same conclusions.
Sam Rockwell is heartbreaking as astronaut Sam Bell, a man approaching the end of his lonely (there's that word again) three year work detail on the moon. He can't wait to get home to earth, but it soon becomes apparent there are some obstacles to that return trip. This sci-fi psychological adventure is disturbing and initially intriguing, but it wears thin after the first hour. Kudos to Rockwell, though, for playing different versions of himself.
Universe big; we small. Sandra Bullock briefly has some company from George Clooney in this award-winning sci-fi survival epic, but she's essentially the only character. Director Alfonso Cuaron makes Bullock's point of view our own in this visually transporting celebration of being alive; one person against the elements is the common theme in almost all these movies.
All Is Lost (2013)
Did we mention one person against the elements? Storms, flooding, sharks, salt water — witness the indomitable human spirit as Robert Redford attempts to survive on the ocean in a sinking boat. Absolute edge-of-seat material from start to finish.
Life Of Pi (2012)
Ang Lee brings Yann Martel's novel to life as Pi Patel (Suraj Sharma) survives a shipwreck and fights for physical and emotional survival at sea … with a tiger. The special effects in this film add a magical element.
Cast Away (2000)
Tom Hanks plays a FedEx employee who survives a plane crash. He washes up on an island and survives for years while the rest of the world assumes he's dead. Too sunny and hopeful by half - Hanks’ Chuck Noland becomes ‘friends’ with Wilson the volleyball — the studio showed a glimpse of potential rescue in the TV ad, so that was pretty much that for tension.
Secret Honor (1984)
Richard M. Nixon sits in his office and talks to himself about everything under the sun, including Watergate. Robert Altman directs Philip Baker Hall in this extraordinary performance about the former president; it's history, drama, sociology and psychology all rolled into one. Rent it, if you've never seen it before.
Adrien Brody wakes up in a smashed-up car at the bottom of a ravine and has to figure out how to save himself.
You can take it from here.