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Locked Down

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What it’s about:

A London couple, recently broken up, are trapped together for the next two weeks as the Covid-19 lockdown begins. Frustrated and miserable, they plan to steal a three million dollar jewel from Harrods … maybe.

Names you might know:

Starring  Anne Hathaway, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Dule Hill, Ben Kingsley, Ben Stiller, Stephen Merchant, Mindy Kaling, and Jazmyn Simon. Written and directed by Doug Liman. Co-written by Steven Knight.

Why it’s worth your time:

Set in late March/early April of 2020, Locked Down is a romantic comedy wrapped in heist thriller that does a good job of capturing how the pandemic has made us all feel. Like, so good you might experience PTSD — if you can do that while something’s still happening to you.

Linda (Anne Hathaway) has just broken up with her longtime partner Paxton (Chiwetel Ejiofor), when the UK goes into a two-week quarantine lockdown, preventing Paxton from moving out, and either of them from moving on. Paxton, recently fired from his delivery job, is certain that the world is against him. Linda, a CEO at an American-based luxury designer distribution company, hates her soulless, joyless job.

Locked Down opens as both are reaching a breaking point — Paxton is getting ready to sell his beloved motorbike for cash to start a new life, while Linda has to fire her entire staff, pretending that the pandemic is the reason. When Paxton is asked by his ex-employer to do one last job off the books, Linda sees an opportunity to steal some freedom for both of them…but will they actually go through with it?

All the pandemic’s “greatest hits” are here:  the claustrophobia of silent rooms and empty streets. The comedy of business-on-top, nap-on-the bottom attire for Zoom meetings that freeze in mid-sentence. Linda and Paxton desperately want to get out of this situation, but they have nowhere to go. They don’t even seem to be that angry at each other — Paxton is more bewildered and dejected than anything else, and Linda is just perpetually annoyed by their predicament. They can’t pinpoint exactly what went wrong, but they definitely have issues. Paxton has a criminal record due to a bar fight he got into 10 yearsbefore, and it’s given him a bit of a martyr complex. Linda made her way up the corporate ladder, but it’s telling that her boss and co-workers don’t even know Paxton exists. They obviously still care about each other, even though their relationship is over. But they’re resigned to making it through the next two weeks (ha ha ha!) — until they can finally leave lock down and separate.

Looking back nearly a year later, it’s kind of quaint. Do you even remember when you had hope that everything would go back to normal one day soon? Linda and Paxton are living life as one big, silent scream, and we can feel that, because we’re living it, too. Hathaway and Ejiofor have great chemistry. You’ll truly believe that they’ve been together forever, and maybe a little too long. That fight in December they mention was probably epic.

Director Doug Liman (Swingers, Edge of Tomorrow) shot Locked Down in 18 days, based on a script he wrote with Steve Knight (Serenity, but don’t hold that against him) in less than six weeks over the summer of 2020. For the most part, it’s a fairly tight and efficient script, a necessity for shooting during a pandemic. Less has to be more. Can’t shoot in more than three places? Liman compensates by filling out the story with cameo-laden Zoom calls with the characters’ family and friends. Ben Stiller shows up as Linda’s clueless corporate-cog boss, while Ben Kingsley is hysterically funny as Paxton’s holy roller, tech-impaired supervisor. Dule Hill and his real-life wife Jazmyn Simon appear as Paxton’s brother and Linda’s obsessed sister-in-law. They not only provide the necessary background to the couple’s story, they serve as reminders of their isolation from the world — and from each other.

When Linda and Paxton do finally get to interact with that outside world, it’s during their will-they-won’t-they heist at Harrods, and it comes a bit of a visual shock. So much space! Where did all these people come from? Why aren’t more of them wearing masks?  The reasoning behind their daring escapade is based on some cloudy logic, to say the least, but it takes the plot – and their relationship — to a far more exhilerating place, and the script ultimately delivers its expected payoff.

The takeaway:

Locked Down is an amusing, engaging, but possibly triggering time capsule. It’s pretty good for a movie that was shot, produced, and released in five months.

Watch it with:

The film has an R rating, and I had to double check why. It’s for language and drug use. All the sex — one scene of it — is off screen. Call it PG-13+. It’s a good palate cleanser before your next binge watch spree.

Worth noting:

Locked Down is not only one of the first films about the pandemic, it’s the first movie Harrods has ever allowed to shoot in the store.

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