Review by: Jack Foley | Rating:
DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Interview with director Brad Anderson.
Commentary by Brad Anderson. Making of featurette. 8 deleted scenes.
Trailers. Film notes. Region 0.
AN ASTONISHING performance from Christian Bale guarantees that
The Machinist remains with you long after you've seen it - but
he is both the film's biggest strength and its weakness.
Bale lost over 60 pounds to play the role of Trevor Reznik, a
machine worker who becomes so haunted by past deeds that they
seem to be eating away at him both physically and mentally.
Yet watching his emaciated form, especially when shirtless, threatens
to become distracting to the point that viewers' attention may
wander from the story itself, which is no less fascinating.
The Machinist centres around the crumbling psychological world
of Reznik as he tries to understand why he is no longer able to
sleep and seems to be losing weight by the bucketload.
He thinks he is on the run from somebody but can't figure out
whom and becomes increasingly paranoid following an accident at
work which results in a career-shattering injury to a colleague.
The only people he can trust are his prostitute girlfriend (Jennifer
Jason Leigh) and an airport diner waitress (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon)
who both appear to love him.
Yet someone is leaving clues, in
the form of a hangman game, on his fridge at home, which prompts
him to question his own sanity and complicity in what may or may
not have happened to him.
The ensuing psychological horror is one of the most visually
creepy and genuinely unsettling film-going experiences you are
likely to have in a long time, thanks in no small part to Bale's
tortured appearance and Brad Anderson's intense direction.
While stylishly shot, the film is seldom easy to watch and maintains
an air of menace throughout that can be quite claustrophobic.
Bale, too, looks uncomfortably thin, prompting the viewer to
question whether the sacrifice he made for his art was safe in
the first place.
Yet his performance is so committed that you have to admire it,
even if his character is difficult to identify with, or even pity.
And therein lies the film's biggest flaw - it's a consistently
cold experience that could well leave viewers confused and numb.
Unlike Christopher Nolan's Memento, to which it has been favourably
compared, The Machinist lacks humanity, creating a nightmarish
world that offers very little in the way of hope or redemption.
This does serve to ensure that it's damn-near impossible to shake
from your memory once you've inhabited its world, but the feeling
you get when leaving is one of unease and queasiness.
The film is therefore both impressive and discomforting, much
like Bale's performance, making it one of the more distinctive
horror films of recent years.
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