The Machinist movie review, Brad Anderson, Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Michael Ironside, John Sharian. Review by Rob Blackwelder ©SPLICEDwire
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PSYCHO _ _ _ L E R
A scene from 'The Machinist'
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100 minutes | Rated: R
LIMITED: Wednesday, November 24, 2004
Directed by Brad Anderson

Starring Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Michael Ironside, John Sharian


Watch it in the dark and this film will lose little to the small screen.

  • Brad Anderson
  • Christian Bale
  • Jennifer Jason Leigh
  • Michael Ironside
  • John Sharian

  •  LINKS for this film
    Official site
    at Rotten Tomatoes
    at Internet Movie Database
    Who's playing hangman with insomniac Trevor Reznik's head? That is the chilling question in 'The Machinist'

    By Rob Blackwelder

    Trevor Reznik is six-foot-two, weighs only 119 lbs. and literally has not slept in a year. Haunted by increasing paranoia, plus insomnia and exhaustion, the man is wasting away -- a skeletal shadow of his healthy former self -- and he's hanging onto reality by a very thin thread.

    So when a menacing new metal-presser at the machine shop where he works (quite dangerously since he's constantly drifting off and snapping back awake) begins toying with his mind (or it is just his own anxiety playing tricks on him?), Trevor's grip on that thread begins to slip, and "The Machinist" becomes a foreboding, noir-bending film of visceral, internalized tension and confusion.

    Akin to "Memento" in its psycho-cinematic deconstruction of an obsessed man's disintegrating mental state, this movie taps into something disquieting from its earliest images of Trevor (Christian Bale, who insanely lost 63 pounds for the role) examining his bruised, emaciated body in a bathroom mirror after what evidence suggests was a struggle that ended in murder.

    He looks like an Auschwitz survivor, but with an exhausted-yet-edgy fervor in his eyes -- eyes that still draw your attention despite the fact that his every facial expression reveals the fragile structure of bone beneath his almost paper-thin skin.

    Soon Trevor is finding post-it notes around his sparse apartment with half-finished games of "hangman" drawn on them -- a noose, a head, a stick-figure body and leg, with "_ _ _ L E R" written below. Then he begins to notice his harassing co-worker (John Sharian, who has the shaved head and dangerously psychotic air of Marlon Brando in "Apocalypse Now") lurking around outside his apartment. A couple days later he sees the guy in a picture on the mantle of a hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) with whom Trevor has a regular date for sex -- and who has taken to mothering him out of genuine concern for his well-being.

    Trevor's mind is definitely cracked, but director Brad Anderson ("Session 9," "Happy Accidents," "Next Stop Wonderland") is smart enough to not exploit this fact for cheap "shocking" twists, as a Hollywood movie would do, failing to realize the audience is 10 steps ahead. Instead he intentionally lets the audience get ahead of the character, but only by a small step or two as Trevor pieces together clues to his stalker's intent and peels back layers of delusion -- at first almost by accident, then almost rabidly -- in his own sleep-deprived and malnourished psyche.

    Bale (best known for "American Psycho") is astounding in this role, bringing not only the kind of dedication that led to starving himself (he bulked and buffed up again afterwards for next year's "Batman Begins"), but also creating empathy for Trevor's skittish hostility. Almost without words, he even makes it comprehensible why his behavior doesn't send up red flags for two emotionally damaged women in his life (hooker Leigh and coffee shop waitress Aitana S‡nchez-Gij—n).

    But this instability gradually gives way to an emotional unraveling. As memories crawl in from the recesses of his gray matter, Trevor begins catching up to the audience -- and when he does, the finale inspires a sudden, staggering understanding of his insomnia, his weight loss, his apparent psychoses and the whole structure of the film.

    Anderson crafts this thriller beautifully, almost immediately entering a realm of gripping intensity through dark gray- and blue-tinted photography -- the color of a thunderstorm sky -- that is reflective of Trevor's physical and psychological deterioration. He also subtly manipulates the story's timeline in ways that are pivotal but not immediately apparent.

    What makes "The Machinist" memorable, however, is that it's actually less of a thriller that an extreme, riveting exploration of how unbearable experiences can eat away at a person, literally body and soul.

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