The Machinist

A startling physical transformation by Christian Bale is at the center of The Machinist. Many people have seen Bale in other movies (Equilibrium, Reign of Fire). His character in The Machinist, Trevor Reznick is a factory worker, wracked with paranoia and insomnia (he claims to have been awake for a year), emaciated from everything happening around him. Bale lost sixty pounds to get to a dangerously thin 130 pounds (he's 6'2"), and on screen he looks startling. People have made a huge fuss over Renee Zellweger gaining weight (twice) for her Bridget Jones movies, but this is another matter completely. Bale looks like he is actually going to drop dead from exhaustion. His look changes from buff and round to angular due to all the bones sticking out of his body. It was a huge risk to take, and really makes The Machinist work.

The Machinist is one of those films that sets out to confuse the viewer. Yet, it has its own internal logic, that, if one pays attention, works well in the end. Think of it like a mix of Fight Club, Dark City, and Open Your Eyes. It always seems to be dark and forbidding, and everybody is out to get Reznick. He feels isolated from his coworkers, and seeks solace from two women. Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh, In the Cut, Road to Perdition) is a prostitute he frequents. She truly likes him, and is willing to give up what she does to be with him. The other is Marie (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, I'm Not Scared, Happy Men), an attractive waitress that works at the airport. Every night, Reznick will drive to the airport just to talk with her. But he begins noticing strange things. It always seems to be 1:30am when he talks to her. Leigh and Sanchez-Gijon give very different performances, but both serve as the only representations of something good within The Machinist. They are Reznick's link to humanity.

He befriends Ivan (John Sharian, Love Actually, Calendar Girls), a beefy coworker that nobody else seems to know. A freak accident, caused when Reznick was watching Ivan, causes another coworker to lose his arm. Reznick tries to explain that Ivan is his alibi, but nobody believes him. This isolates him more at work. At home, he begins finding post-it notes on his fridge prompting him to start a game of hangman. It's hard to believe that director Brad Anderson started off his career with films like Happy Accidents and Next Stop Wonderland. But his last film was the effective but little seen Session 9. It's also hard believing that Scott Kosar wrote this, since his last credit went to the horrid Texas Chainsaw Massacre remake.

This film works because it sets an eerie, creepy mood, drops in small clues, then builds towards a conclusion that's pretty obvious for fans of the aforementioned films. The testament to how well The Machinist works is that people are willing to sit watch to see how everything unfolds. Anderson keeps everything dim, swathing sets in blue and gray lights. Most of the sets have a barren, industrial look to them. There are few hints of color, and when it does appear, it looks washed out and faded. But overall, it is Bale that anchors the film. His performance is mesmerizing. It's easy to see that something is wrong with Reznick. His sleep deprivation is obviously causing him to imagine some things, but nobody can tell where reality ends and his imagination begins.

Mongoose Rates It: Pretty Good.
1 hour, 42 minutes, Rated R for violence, disturbing images, sexuality, and language.

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