DVD Weekend: The Machinist
As of the time of writing, I am still reeling from 8 episodes of 24 back to back. Something tells me that when I finally grow up, I want to be Jack Bauer.
(although I'd prefer to have Kim Bauer as a possible love interest, not as a daughter..but then again..oh no I'd better stop)
So anyway. I managed to snag Christian Bale's latest, The Machinist on DVD after nearly a year of waiting; and as I'd expected, Bale shines in this Brad Anderson (Session 9) directed effort. It's intriguing to find out that Anderson had to shoot in Spain to cover costs since no one would finance the shoot in the US. Shows us where the studios are aiming for in good old Hollywood.
In any case, The Machinist is one of those movies that's impossible to review without giving away major spoilers, so I'll just try and put in the main details. Trevor Reznik (insert NIN reference here, played by Bale) has a problem. He hasn't been able to sleep in a year. The insomnia affects his appearance as well - he has lost so much weight that he looks like a bag of bones. The only refuges he has from his sleepless condition comes from the town hooker Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh, and yes you get to see her boobs) who secretly is in love with him and Maria, the waitress at the diner in the local airport where Reznik goes for his late night coffee.
As he alternates between microsleeps and his somnambulistic waking condition, things get bad when he is partly responsible for a workplace accident that costs his colleague (Michael Ironside!) an arm (shades of Starship Troopers). Reznik begins to feel persecuted by his workmates, a problem further compounded by the strange, teasing little notes he finds taped to his refrigerator. And then there's the problem of the big bald guy who pops in and out of the picture, but who no one seems to know..
The Machinist basically boils down to a story about guilt, conscience and accountability, but it is never heavy handed in its delivery of the message. The taut direction helps keep the pace brisk when the whole thing seems almost to teeter on the brink of being slow - and if it's one thing about Brad Anderson he milks atmosphere for everything he's worth. Without resorting to be overly symbolic he paints scenes that individually may seem stilted, but taken in the context of Trevor Reznik's life, make sense, and help propel the viewer along to the denouement, which I promise is well worth the ride.
Kudos has to go to the actors with Bale once again proving he can take anything they throw at him and make it work. His emaciated frame (which weighed in at 120 pounds during shooting) was almost too painful to watch, but he manages to make Reznik work so well as the tortured soul. The supporting actors are just that - they provide the context and background for his trials, and when the end finally comes, well you can be sure that you won't be in a hurry to lose any sleep.
In short, if you liked Identity, Session 9 or any other twist-y flick, give this one a try. You might even sleep better at night.
4 out of 5