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Image provided by HBO.

It’s a risky move from director Doug Liman and writer Steven Knight to release a film so heavily involved with the current pandemic to start 2021. Not just because it offers the very opposite of escapism, but for fear that it has anything truly valuable to say given our position still tight within its deadly grasp. That being said, “Locked Down” proves to be surprisingly playful, finding a trace of oddball optimism in our future past the crisis.

Paxton (Chitwetel Ejiofor) and Linda (Anne Hathaway) have just broken up, but the mandatory lockdown imposed in London has them trapped together in their home with fresh wounds and frazzled thoughts. In between sessions of downing wine and enduring soulless Zoom calls, they bicker in frantic monologues in an attempt to untangle their lives from one another. That is, until it leads to a cooperative plan to steal a £3 million diamond seemingly too convenient to not be fate.

It’s a lot to juggle, but Hathaway and Ejiofor aren’t afraid to live in the story’s more theatrical moments with enough charm to keep the melodrama digestible.

For those who enjoyed Hathaway’s turn in “Ocean’s 8,” fans will find her evolved here in a meatier and more unhinged role, and Ejiofor ceaselessly matches her passion as they propel each other into further zany wrinkles of their range.

Much of the script’s shenanigans wouldn’t work without their commitment, and luckily, Knight’s latest resembles the clever confinement of his indie hit “Locke” more so than the disastrous “Serenity.” What silliness does persist from his previous misfire is in service of a movie that not only understands its own madness, but knows how much we do as well.

What other film will you find two Hollywood A-listers engaging in animated arguments about grocery lists and baking bread while dressed in pajamas for the near entirety of the runtime? It’s possibly the best representation of lockdown life in the latest string of films taking place during COVID-19, and Liman’s off-kilter approach pulls together the messiness with vibrant energy.

At times, the inconsistency of the material is hard to ignore. The formation of the heist plan is built on so many conveniences that it loses any real sense of being organic. The film also goes all in on a painfully unfunny Edgar Allen Poe joke that’s reappearance reveals the thin line between intoxicating silliness and grating annoyance.

At its best, “Locked Down” is a freeing experience that finds joy indulging the fantastical desires that being pent-up for so long creates.

It’s easy to become clouded in these desperate times of what we need to feel whole again, and watching Paxton and Linda stroll through the Harrods food hall like it’s their own private kitchen becomes a striking image for the excitement of our future. There is newfound appreciation to be discovered in liberation.

Now available exclusively on HBO Max.

Movie/Streaming Critic

Hi, I'm Zach! I'm a sophomore studying Journalism, and when I'm not catching up on film classics, I enjoy jamming out to music, reading and writing poetry, and goofing off with friends.