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The Machinist

A movie directed by Brad Anderson

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Truly Superb Film Making

  • Nov 26, 2006
  • by
Pros: Christian Bale's performance; story-line; supporting actors

Cons: None

The Bottom Line: Bale’s performance alone makes The Machinist worth of a look, but don’t watch the movie alone; it is best shared—dare I say savored—with a friend.

Plot Details: This opinion reveals minor details about the movie's plot.

I am loath to admit that before Batman Begins (2005) I had never heard of Christian Bale, though I had probably seen him perform in one movie or another. Now suddenly he is very noticeable and he popping up everywhere, including the critically acclaimed The Machinist (2004), a disturbing movie that follows the life of an insomniac as he slowly loses pounds and his mind.

The Story-Line

Directed by Brad Anderson—a heretofore television director—The Machinist is a haunting film about the power of guilt and self-loathing taken to new extremes. Bale (American Psycho, Shaft, Reign of Fire) portrays Trevor Reznik, a drill press operator in a machine shop in some undisclosed, but quintessential American town (never mind most of the film was shot on location in Spain). Reznik has not slept in a year he is suffering from total insomnia a condition that has left him wasted, fatigued, and paranoid with a less than tenuous grip on reality.

After work Reznik either spends his nights at the local airport coffee shop, chatting up a pretty attentive waitress named Marie portrayed by Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, whom he leaves rather large tips; or sequestered in the arms of a hooker named Stevie portrayed by Jennifer Jason Leigh (Last Exit to Brooklyn, Single White Female, In The Cut). Both women are smitten with Trevor despite his gaunt appearance; while Marie asks him out on a date, Stevie has visions of settling down with him.

Neither woman is explored outside the confines of Trevor’s mind and therein lays a clue to the astute. We are allowed to see Marie and Stevie only as Reznik does; they are physic containers into which he pours his considerable angst, twisted visions, and increasing paranoia.

Trevor’s world turns from bad to worse when Miller, a colleague at work portrayed by Michael Ironside (The Falcon and The Snowman, The Next Karate Kid, SeaQuest DSV) loses an arm limb in an accident (Trevor’s fault) and Trevor is haunted by a sinister looking co-worker named Ivan portrayed by John Sharian (The Fifth Element, Love Actually, Saving Private Ryan), a actor who bears a striking resemblance to the late Marlin Brando. The problem is Ivan doesn’t exist…

My Thoughts

The most haunting aspect of The Machinist wasn’t the performances, though each was superb, it was the shocking weight loss of the title character. In order to portray the tormented Trevor Resnik, Bale lost a reported 63 pounds, wasting away to a corpselike 121 pounds. It is at once horrifying and mesmerizing to watch Bale perform on screen, with his sunken cheeks and hallow eyes, ashen skin, and skeletal persona with his vertebrae jutting out of his back like a one of the acid dripping creatures from an Alien movie. It’s hard to believe this is the same man who looked so buff just one year later in Batman Begins.

Jennifer Jason Leigh once again portraying a hooker (she does it so well) turned in her usual upstanding performance as did Michael Ironside, Aitana Sanchez Gijon and John Sharian. The cast is small and rightfully so because this is unadorned movie is about human connections. Some may find its stark nature too much to handle, but the ride is well worth the fifty cents.

Director Anderson lent little color or beauty to this dour film and in so doing succeeded in creating a chilling movie that stayed with me long after the closing credits rolled. Cinematographer Xavi Gimenez did a remarkable job shooting in mostly grays which only added to the dreamlike aspect of the film with an odd palette of greens and occasional bright white exteriors.

Final Analysis: The Machinist is a superbly put together thriller that saw far too little time on the big screens in the United States. Bales performance alone makes The Machinist worth of a look, but don’t watch the movie alone; it is best shared—dare I say savored—with a friend.


Viewing Format: DVD
Video Occasion: Fit for Friday Evening
Suitability For Children: Not suitable for Children of any age

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More The Machinist reviews
Quick Tip by . October 22, 2010
posted in Movie Hype
There was much hype about this flick. Christian Bale purposely lost a third of his body mass to play this role. If you are a healthy weight, losing a third of your mass is dramatic and risky, so the ends need to justify the means. This movie would still be mediocre at best without regard to Mr. Bale's ill advised extreme diet.
review by . June 02, 2008
"The Machinist" is a movie that is so enthralled and impressed with itself that it refuses to let go of its convoluted story. Trevor, a man who has not slept in 1 year, is both physically and mentally suffering from the aforementioned sleep depravation. His work, personal life, body and mind suffer from his insomnia, if we can call it that. Strange things begin to happen, he sees people unseen by anyone else and the viewer, along with Trevor, is taken along in this psychological thriller with more …
review by . February 04, 2006
posted in Movie Hype
Pros: Bale all the way     Cons: none that large     The Bottom Line: "Welcome my son,   welcome to the machine.   Where have you been?   It's alright we know where you've been."   Pink Floyd     Definitely spooky, just for the visuals alone, The Machinist carries an eerie story a little over the edge.       Basic story …    Trevor Reznik works as a machinist in a …
review by . August 28, 2005
What would happen if you hadn't slept for a year?    That's the basic premise of "The Machinist," a film about a man who can't sleep, hasn't slept in a very long time, and is finding that it's having some pretty deletirious effects on him, both physically and psychologically. The reasons why he can't sleep, and why the people around him are acting so strangely, are brought into gradual focus as the story progresses.    Christian Bale plays Trevor Reznik, who …
review by . June 08, 2005
posted in Movie Hype
THE MACHINIST is a mesmerizing film, a journey through the interstices of a mind deprived of sleep, of nourishment, and a mind that struggles to untangle the chaos of a past of guilt and terror. And the journey is terrifying.     When the film opens we meet Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) or at least the emaciated, tortured remains of a man who hasn't slept for a year. We don't know why this worker in a machine factory is in such condition: the story unwinds slowly so that by …
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Vincent Martin ()
Ranked #187
I am an IT Professional and have worked in the industry for over 20 years. I may be a computer geek, but I also like reading, writing, cooking, music, current events and regretfully, politics.
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As a bleak and chilling mood piece,The Machinistgets under your skin and stays there. Christian Bale threw himself into the title role with such devotion that he shed an alarming 63 pounds to play Trevor Reznik (talk about "starving artist"!), a factory worker who hasn't slept in a year. He's haunted by some mysterious occurrence that turned him into a paranoid husk, sleepwalking a fine line between harsh reality and nightmare fantasy--a state of mind that leaves him looking disturbingly gaunt and skeletal in appearance. (It's no exaggeration to say that Bale resembles a Holocaust survivor from vintage Nazi-camp liberation newsreels.) In a cinematic territory far removed from his 1998 romantic comedyNext Stop Wonderland, director Brad Anderson orchestrates a grimy, nocturnal world of washed-out blues and grays, as Trevor struggles to assemble the clues of his psychological conundrum. With a friendly hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and airport waitress (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón) as his only stable links to sanity, Trevor reaches critical mass and seems ready to implode just asThe Machinistreveals its secrets. For those who don't mind a trip to hell with a theremin-laced soundtrack,The Machinistseems primed for long-term status as a cult thriller on the edge.--Jeff Shannon
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Director: Brad Anderson
Genre: Drama
Release Date: October 22, 2004
MPAA Rating: R
DVD Release Date: June 7, 2005
Runtime: 1hr 38min
Studio: Paramount
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