The Machinist Review
The Machinist is an interesting piece of work, to be sure. Although financed and produced by Spanish studio Filmax and shot in Barcelona, it primarily looks and feels like an American effort, taking its cue from recent thrillers like M. Night Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense and Christopher Nolan's Memento. The plot focuses on Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale), an industrial worker who hasn't been able to sleep for a year. Thin to the point of emaciation, some event in the past is clearly preying on his mind and preventing him from moving forward. He leads a monotonous life, his only human contact being with his unsympathetic co-workers, the waitress of the diner he frequents every night (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón), and Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), the prostitute he visits every night. One day, however, his life begins to change when a mysterious man, Ivan (John Sharian), begins to haunt him, and he starts experiencing bizarre and disturbing visions. Are they (and Ivan) merely figments of his imagination, or is something much more disturbing happening?
Writer Scott Kosar's only previous gig was the 2003 remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and it is fairly safe to say that The Machinist is a more substantial piece of work. Most impressive is the fact that the script, while intricately plotted, never talks down to the audience, assuming that viewers will be intelligent enough to decipher, with a minimum of prompting, what is actually happen once all the pieces of the puzzle are laid in place. Most importantly, Kosar never cheats, laying out the pieces required to solve the puzzle rather than simply pulling off a twist that could, in retrospect, have been worked out. The film's look is impressive if repetitive (although arguably this is intentional and appropriate for plot that hinges on monotony). Reznik's world is consistently desaturated and blue-tinted, with the grainy film stock clearly establishing the bleak mood and pounding it home. While not the most original visual style ever put to celluloid (digital grading in general has, in my opinion, been severely overused since its relatively recent inception), it certainly works here.
Christian Bale's embodiment of Reznik is most impressive. He lost more than 60 pounds for the role, and is almost unrecognisable - a virtual walking skeleton. His appearance adds a great deal to the disturbing nature of the film and helps legitimate what would otherwise have seemed like a far-fetched notion. On its own, it would be difficult to believe that Reznik had not slept for an entire year, but his appearance makes it all too easy to believe that this man is seriously sleep-deprived and exhausted. Although she gets title billing after Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh is underused. The largely reactive role of concerned call-girl Stevie is no stretch for her, but she plays the part well and injects some sympathy into a bleak and hostile world.
The Machinist is a bleak but satisfying effort, well-paced and not outstaying its welcome. It marks a welcome return to the seemingly dying art of movies that take their time to establish a world and allow the audience to get to know the characters without feeling the need to provide an explosion every ten minutes. While it won't win any awards for originality, it is well-executed and gets a strong recommendation from me.