The Machinist

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Matt Brighton

Plot: What’s it about?

“If you were any thinner, you wouldn’t exist…”

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 he 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 Sánchez-Gijón) 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 in a very bleak 2.35:1 anamorphic transfer. 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 the DVD reproduces is good-looking, but the movie itself is meant to be dark, mysterious and not something that will showcase the entire spectrum.

Audio: How does it sound?

The movie does benefit from the Dolby Digital, the sound isn’t that great. But it’s not the fault of the processing, there just isn’t a lot of sound in the movie (it was made that way). No problems with dialogue to report and surround effects, when used, sound very real and have a good ambiance about them. For the most part, the action is limited to the front channels. A no frills presentation here, but audio isn’t what this movie is all about.

Supplements: What are the extras?

A 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 chracter. 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 theatrical trailer.

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