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The Machinist (2004)
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Review Date: October 21, 2004
Director: Brad Anderson
Writer: Scott Kosar
Producers: Julio Fernandez
Actors:
Christian Bale as Trevor
Jennifer Jason Leigh as Stevie
Michael Ironside as Miller
Plot:
A man who hasn't slept a wink in over a year and has degenerated into a skeleton physique, can't seem to figure out what's wrong with himself and attempts to deal with his confusion, whilst continuing to work his job as a machinist and screwing a hooker with a heart of gold. Over time, the man suspects that someone or something is behind it all, but what's really happening? Christian Bale-as skinny as he'll ever be-ensues.
Critique:
Nice! It'd been a while since I'd walked into a movie, knowing very little about it, but preparing for both the best and the worst, but I'm glad I walked into THE MACHINIST with its gripping style, its amazing physical transformation and emotional dedication from star Christian Bale and its continuing mystery from step one to step last, making it one of the better movies that I've seen so far this year. This film is very minimal in terms of scope, features Bale in almost every single shot and very few other characters, but it's got a great tone, an amazing score that complements the film's very dark and ambiguous vibe (Bernard Herrmann, anyone?), and plenty of intrigue via clues, moments of clarity, moments of surreal cloudiness and plenty of questions, all the way to the very end. In that sense, this film reminded me a lot of FIGHT CLUB, MEMENTO and obviously INSOMNIA (with its similar sense of dream-like state and ambiguity), although this film's structure is a lot more straightforward, at least in terms of its timeline. I also liked how it felt a little Hitchcock-ish, almost certainly done on purpose, with plenty of driving about, inter-fades between scenes, moments of dual question marks, appearing/disappearing characters and an almost gleeful sense of playing around with the audience's mind.

I loved plenty about this movie, which takes its time to get going, but does so in a purposeful, dark and quite dreary set-up, with dozens of shots of Bale's extremely frail and rail-thin skeleton structure, giving us an immediate impression of how extreme this character has taken to his grave situation. You can't talk about this film without discussing Bale's brilliant performance though, since it not only takes the center stage in the story, but really has to connect to the audience. I've been a big fan of Bale since his virtuoso showing in AMERICAN PSYCHO, but his work here is commendable in terms of both his physical being carved out as the perfect specimen of his character, but also his deeper inner-being, with a very distinct gray zone allowing him to question, moralize and interpret the inexplicable happenings around him. Character study lovers...line up! What I also appreciated about this film was its sense of build-up, grungy industrial atmosphere (I doubt that the resemblance between the lead's name of Trevor Reznik and NIN's lead singer Trent Reznor is a coincidence), wonderfully dark and David Lynch-esque mood and ultimate sense of completion, understanding and depth. I'd recommend THE MACHINIST to anyone who enjoys a well-structured mystery set in the dark underground of one's subconscious with a slab of Jennifer Jason Leigh tittie dropped in for effect, the great Michael Ironside tossed in for further street cred and plenty of head games to keep one guessing until the very end. FYI, actor Christian Bale apparently lost 60 pounds for this role, which was approximately 1/3 of his body weight.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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