Hollywood’s latest attempt at a coronavirus exploitation flick comes in the form of Doug Liman’s Locked Down, a heist romantic comedy starring Anne Hathaway and Chiwetel Ejiofor. These two play a couple whose relationship has run its course. After being forced to stay on lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, the two decide to steal a £3 million diamond.
This is one of the first in an inevitable series of movies piggybacking the pandemic; so far, we’ve had Host, a surprisingly effective horror flick set entirely on a Zoom call, and more recently, Songbird, a terrible dystopian thriller.
I knew it would be interesting to see how Doug Liman, director of films such as The Bourne Identity and Edge of Tomorrow, would approach a more lighthearted take on the pandemic. Unfortunately, this is a boring, uneventful film with very little substance underneath its paper-thin plot.
Coronavirus films are not inherently bad; all they need to be good is what every other film needs: good acting, writing, and direction. However, this film was announced in September 2020, acquired by HBO Max in December 2020, and released in January 2021.
It doesn’t take a film scholar to know that preproduction, production, postproduction, and distribution occurring in a measly four months is unprecedented, and you can tell how rushed the film is through the direction. This was shot in 18 days, and this is noticeable right from the getgo.
Despite what the title may suggest, many of the shots in the film are not locked down. Shots don’t feel planned or crafted with any expertise, and the handheld camera with minimal editing makes it very apparent that this shoot was a race against time.
While this is by no means a bad-looking film and Liman deserves praise for finishing the movie in such a small window of time, it is not a great film on a technical level, and it feels like a studio product churned out as fast as possible to make a release date when coronavirus was still making headlines.
As for Steven Knight’s script, it is less than stellar. Despite this being marketed as a heist movie, the heist doesn’t happen until the film's final act. The first two acts primarily consist of business calls conducted on Zoom, which make for scenes that are just as tedious and time-consuming as real Zoom calls.
The lack of imagination and escapism in this film is a disappointment. There is very little interest in any of the Zoom calls besides an occasional gag and the feeling of, “oh hey, I know that celebrity!”
Hathaway and Ejiofor are the film’s bright spots. They give good performances, especially Hathaway, as a somewhat frazzled CEO who has taken up smoking again. She is funny and sad, and Ejiofor portrays his humorous frustration very well.
The issue is the script feels afraid to go anywhere interesting with its story or characters. Rather than display the toll that the pandemic has had on our mental health in a serious way, the film lightly touches on these issues. Instead of making fun of the absurdity of the past few months, the film simply has a few celebrity cameos who (literally) phone in their performances.
At some point in the first hour, you realize the film has very little to offer beyond a bunch of Zoom calls. The movie isn’t dramatic enough to be a drama, nor is it funny enough to be a comedy. It has minimal flair, and even the heist at the end doesn’t offer anything we haven’t seen yet, lacking apparent stakes and danger.
By the way, we must now address the issues with the film and mask etiquette. For a film that takes place during the pandemic, the number of characters and extras without masks feels a bit ridiculous, especially in the Harrods department store where the heist takes place.
Ejiofor’s character, Paxton, wears a bandana around his face instead of a mask. Bandanas are not as effective in preventing COVID-19 as cloth or surgical masks. Also, don’t pull your mask under your nose/mouth, as many of the characters do.
This has been your Locked Down review/public service announcement. If we’re gonna get a future of coronavirus movies, let’s hope they can actually be fun, sad, and serious instead of this film’s uninteresting heist that won’t even manage to steal your attention.
Grade: ★★☆☆☆ [4/10, C-]
Rating: R for language throughout and some drug material