Plot: What’s it about?
Christian Bale, an excellent English actor, seems to only finally be getting his due in Hollywood. He’s been around for quite some time, actually (he was the boy in “Empire of the Sun”) and has managed to make that transition from childhood star to leading man ? most notably as his turn as the “new” darker Batman in the “Batman Begins” movie. Bale starred in one of my favorite movies of recent years, “American Psycho”, in which he took the role that Leonardo DiCaprio backed out of. That film explored the darker side of yuppie-ism and gave Bale a chance to shine, for sure. I actually enjoyed him and Matthew McConaughey in “Reign of Fire” a few years ago as well. That movie was a post-apocalyptic vision of the world had dragons been real. However Christian Bale made one of the most remarkable physical transformations in film history (right up there with Robert DeNiro in “Raging Bull”) for his role as the troubled Trevor Reznik in “The Machinist”. Director Brad Anderson took the helm for the first time on a movie he didn’t write and the result is quite stunning. While it’s obvious that the style and tone is homage to David Lynch or Alfred Hitchcock, “The Machinist” finds its own way and makes for quite and interesting watch.
As his daily routine permits, Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) works as a machinist for a soulless factory in downtown Los Angeles (actually the movie was shot in Spain, made to look like Los Angeles ? more on that later). Trevor is frighteningly thin, 120 pounds to be exact, and hasn’t slept in over a year. The question we ask ourselves is, of course, “why”? As we see the facets of Trevor’s life, the pieces of the puzzle don’t really help us see the big picture. He hangs out at an airport diner where he has a platonic relationship with the waitress, Marie (Aitana S?nchez-Gij?n) in which he leaves her extremely large tips. He has sex, albeit with a prostitute, by the name of Stevie (Jennifer Jason-Leigh) ? someone who he can talk to and is the closest thing he has to a friend. And that’s it. That’s his life. He spends his endless nights cleaning up his apartment, writing notes to himself to pay bills, etc. Disaster strikes at the factory and a co-worker loses his arm (Michael Ironside, who seems to lose arms in most every movie he’s in). Ridden by guilt the a mysterious figure by the name of Ivan (John Sharian), Trevor is trying to figure out who or what Ivan is and how it relates to the big picture.
This is one of those unfortunate movies in which if you give too much away, it will give away the plot and therefore the ending. Suffice it to say that Director Brad Anderson is doing his best to make a modern day “Hitchcockian” thriller and does a pretty good job of it. Bale’s physical transformation isn’t used so much that it loses the effect, but to see him in this movie and then again in “American Psycho” or “Batman Begins” ? we see how much of a difference it really is. The supporting characters are all good as well, we journey through Trevor’s delusions and try, as he does, to piece together what it is that’s happening to him. Can someone really survive without a sleep for over a year? More importantly, “The Machinist” is a self-effacing character study that explores the bounds of paranoia, trust and the distortion of reality in cynical, blue-collar Los Angeles. If you’re able to handle the “holocaust victim” look that Bale has throughout the movie, then you’re in for a good ride. Recommended.
Video: How does it look?
“The Machinist” is shown looked great on standard DVD when I saw it a few years back and now that the film has made the leap to Blu-ray the quality has improved a bit. The image is solid, crystal clear and vivid throughout though the overall “image” of the movie consists of washed out scenes and a muted color palette. That’s to say that the image is good-looking, but the movie itself is meant to be dark, mysterious and not something that will showcase the entire spectrum. In essence, it’s a slightly better-looking version of what the DVD was.
Audio: How does it sound?
The standard DVD has a no frills soundtrack and that’s what we have here, though the sound mix is Dolby TrueHD as opposed to Dolby Digital 5.1. The natural ambiance used is used to great effect and for the most part this movie is dialogue-driven. A majority of the mix is limited to the front channels with surrounds coming in sporadically adding just the tiniest hint of ambiance. By and large, this seems to be the exact same mix found on the standard DVD with just a bit more depth.
Supplements: What are the extras?
The same supplements found on the standard DVD are included here and about the only thing different (aside from the improved audio and video) is the cover art. That said, the commentary by Brad Anderson is a welcome addition as is a fairly odd “Making of…” featurette that shows the origin of the script and how it was eventually financed (and shot) in Barcelona, Spain. Interviews with the actors shed a bit of light on the shoot and I couldn’t figure out why Bale was talking with an American accent, as he’s British by birth! I suppose anyone who loses 60 pounds for a role is pretty good at getting (and staying) in character. There are some deleted scenes that don’t add a lot to the disc, but it’s clear to see why they were cut. Paramount has also included the original trailer.