The Machinist

Starring: Christian Bale and Jennifer Jason Leigh
Tartan Video
RRP: 15.99
Certificate: 15
Available 01 August 2005

Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) is a machine operator; just one of a bored group of men. The difference is Reznik hasn't slept for nearly a year. Racked by extreme fatigue, his body is becoming increasingly emaciated. As a consequence of this his mind plays a series of warped tricks on him, until he seriously begins to doubt reality. As a result of his negligence a fellow worker suffers an accident in which he loses an arm. Reznik is alienated from the workforce, and his guilt soon turns to paranoia. As a series of Hangman notes appear on his fridge, he discovers the two people he can still rely on are not what they seem at all. Reznik believes someone is trying to exact revenge on him for the accident, but the real truth will threaten to tip him over the edge into insanity...

This is one of those films you feel compelled to watch; once you've pressed that play button you're not going to press stop until it's over. That's testament to the film's good plotting. There are layers upon layers which reel you in and immerse you in the so-called subterfuge until you're not quite sure if The Machinist is a contemporary thriller or a Chronenberg-like fantasy. I suppose it's a bit of both, but the closest film comparison in terms of style would be Donnie Darko. Especially the final revelations, and the fact that it leaves you thinking and trying to make sense of certain aspects. I prefer that in a film; I don't particularly like neatly tied-up packages.

Christian Bale (currently finding fame in Batman Begins) is near faultless in his performance here. The lengths he went to to get into character surprised even the writer and director. Simply put, Bale just stopped eating and wasted away, risking serious health problems, until he barely existed. I'm not sure a mere movie warrants those extremes, but you've got to give the man credit, because he pulls it off with aplomb.

For me, the best scene is when he takes the little boy on the ghost train. The way Bale reacts to the increasingly depraved scenes of death and violence, trying to protect the boy, are the film's only humorous moments. But it doesn't stay that way for long. I think if I'd been taken on that ghost train at a young age I'd have had a seizure too.

Extras are: Director Interview, Commentary by Director Brad Anderson, The Making of... featurette, Trailers and 8 Deleted Scenes.

A great and original film.

Ty Power

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