Loner Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) has been suffering from an insidious form of ceaseless insomnia for a year. His nerves frayed, his body so gaunt he is warned by those around him of starting to disappear, it is all Trevor can do to make it to his job each day, toiling away in a grim, gray, dangerous machine shop. When he causes an accident that badly injures a fellow worker, Miller (Michael Ironside), his sense of guilt, coupled with strange notes on his fridge, combine to undermine his already feeble mental equilibrium. In desperation, he befriends his regular hooker Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and the single mother waitress, Marie (Aitana Sanches-Gijon). But inexplicable events make him doubt his sanity, while the mysterious Ivan (John Sharian) keeps popping up in an unsettling array of places with seeming connections to other people around Trevor. He's convinced it's part of a conspiracy against him. Until his memory finally disgorges the awful truth.
Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Darkly riveting, The Machinist clutches our imagination with skeletal fingers as Christian Bale's stick insect figure hobbles across the screen in search of answers to the matchstick man figures on post it notes stuck to his fridge. Bale's extraordinary appearance, reminiscent of the walking dead in Nazi concentration camps, is a significant dramatic tool in this psychological thriller made with clinical precision.
The fusion of illusion (self delusion) and reality is so seamless and so seductive in Brad Anderson's film that we can't help but search for the join. We never find it, until the very last moments, when Trevor Reznik's insomnia, his imagined woes and his real pain all come together in one guilt ridden revelation.
This finely honed film revels in its psychological hire wire act, but puts enormous demands on its actors. Bale is superb as Trevor, able to not only convey the wasted person within, but to avoid making his physical appearance the only thing we care about or notice. There are a few lighter moments, notably in the strangely sweet romance that begins between Trevor and the hooker he frequents, Edie (Jennifer Jason Leigh in top form playing in a minor key), when we catch glimpses of a man that might have been - indeed, probably was.
Likewise with the waitress Marie (Aitana Sanches-Gijon) at the airport diner: and here's one of the very few clues in the script, with Trevor's explanation of why he goes out to the airport diner for coffee and pie. From where else could he jump on a plane on a whim, to escape somewhere, he tells her. This, and a large holiday poster whose catchline is 'ESCAPE' are elements that fall into place in retrospect.
The film's downbeat mood, its grey/blue tones and its psycho-shimmer score will prevent it being a blockbuster hit, but anyone who enjoyed Memento, or is a fan of Hitchcock (or Hitchcock's emulators) will find this a satisfying and haunting work, remarkable for being unique at a time when few filmmakers dare to be so adventurous. Ironically, that's what makes the film worthwhile.
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MACHINIST, THE (M)
CAST: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanches-Gijon, John Sharian, Michael Ironside, Larry Gillard, Anna Massey, reg E. Cathey
PRODUCER: Julio Fernandez
DIRECTOR: Brad Anderson
SCRIPT: Scott Kosar
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Xavi Gimenez, Charlie Jiminez
EDITOR: Luis De La Madrid
MUSIC: Roque Banos
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Alain Bainee (art director)
RUNNING TIME: 102 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Rialto
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: June 2, 2005
VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Paramount
VIDEO RELEASE: September 15, 2005