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The Machinist (2004)

  Directed by: Brad Anderson
Written by: Scott Kosar
Starring: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, John Sharian
Links: The Machinist on the IMDb, Official site, Buy on DVD
Genre: Suspense/Horror/Thriller

This movie gets: 8.00 (2 ratings)
nofreelist.com Ranking: Ranked equal 53rd of 187 movies (2 ratings minimum; see full chart)

"Haunting and full of pain" - a review by andy-j

It's hard to describe the plot of The Machinist without giving too much away. And I wouldn't want to do that because it's quite a plot. The film centres on the lonely existence of the scarily thin Trevor Reznik, a man who pretty much appears to have been forgotten by society. He is employed at a manufacturing plant in a repetitive and unfulfilling job, working on heavy machinery. He has few friends - a prostitute and a waitress at an airport bar is about it. Reznik is a weirdo - as well as being horribly thin, he cannot sleep, and he has an obsession with washing his hands with bleach. His life is totally unorganised, he exists from day to day. We very much get the impression that this Reznik is just holding on.

We observe Reznik's monotonous life, and soon start to realise that things are not all that they seem. Unusual things start to happen to him, and he starts to suspect that there is some sort of conspiracy against him. Notes start appearing on his fridge, for example. We start to ask ourselves 'is he crazy, or is there some sort of plot against him?'. We have no idea. Things start to get weirder and weirder, but ever so slowly the movie hands us more and more pieces of the jigsaw, leaving us guessing right up to the very end as to what is really going on.

I've said it before - I love the sort of film that keeps you guessing right up 'til the final twist, which turns everything you've seen on its head. I enjoy knowing that what I'm watching is leading me somewhere that I would never expect to be led, then sitting back and analysing how it all pieced together and thinking about all the clues that pointed to it. It makes me want to see the film again to appreciate it properly. The Machinist is a particularly great example because it is extremely clever. When the final twist is revealed, I sat there and realised that it wasn't just a little bit here and there that I now understood - it was just about everything. Everything we knew about the characters is explained in an instant. I realised that everything I had been watching was actually a clue as to what was really going on. Immensely satisfying. I don't think I've said too much, but I won't say anything further on it.

After seeing this film and Batman Begins (2005) within a week of each other, I have immense respect for Christian Bale. It isn't just the fact that he physically transformed himself for this role, it's the way he portrays his character that really haunted me. Reznik is a shell of man, you can see it in the way he talks to people, and the way he holds himself. When he smiles he truly looks like he hasn't smiled in a long time - it looks like there was once some happiness in his life long ago, and he'd almost forgotten it. It's hard to explain, but I can safely say that without such an amazing performance, the film would not have the impact that it has, nor would it be anywhere as mesmerizing as it is. Just amazing. I'm really looking forward to seeing this movie again.

andy-j gives this movie 9 out of 10.
Review created on Fri 15 Jul 2005

"A good old fashioned popcorn flick? No. No." - a review by pearly

The Machinist is a hard film to watch. Forget Renée Zellweger putting on bunches of weight for Bridget Jones's Diary, Christian Bale's dedication to this film absolutely blew me away.

Bale plays Trevor, a man who has slightly lost the full use of his faculties, and is trying to get to the bottom of why things keep going wrong for him. He works as a machinist in a factory, where he is not quite in with the rest of the boy's club, and outside of work, he's a bit of a loner, his best friends being a prostitute named Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) who he is a regular client of, and a woman who works at an airport cafeteria where he goes in the middle of the night to get coffee.

What's hard about watching this film is having to look at Bale's completely emaciated figure. Director Brad Anderson makes it all the worse by putting him in certain poses, and making him go shirtless (or more) for scenes, all seemingly with the aim of emphasising the fact that the guy is skin and bones, and not an ounce more. It made me wince, and, at times, it made me cover my eyes. It was on a par with some of the scenes from Se7en (1995), and possibly even worse, because you knew that the guy was actually that skinny. Seriously, half the point of this film seems to have ended up being how much thin-Bale you can put up with.

Luckily, though, there is more to The Machinist than just this. The story, though done to death of late, is one of the better executions of this type of thriller. My main beef with it was the simple fact that I felt that it was going on too long, and I became all fidgety wanting to know what was going to happen, and just thinking "get to the point!". Of course, this is probably the best kind of impatience during a film: to be wanting so badly to know what's going to happen indicates that you, as a viewer, actually care about the end result, and are interested enough to keep watching even though it's starting to feel a little excruciating, is arguably a good thing. In this case, I felt that it was a little too much on the side of being too slow to reveal its hand, which began to irritate me, but it wasn't all bad - I wasn't bored for a single second, and I found the ending to be quite clever.

All of this has put me a bit in two minds about the film. Sure, I saw the merit in it, but I had to try pretty hard to get to the conclusion. Still, I admire the obvious dedication of the people involved, and the general weirdness and tone of the film (reminded me a bit of Saw (2004), actually), so, overall, I'm going to give it a fairly decent rating. Not for the squeamish, though.

pearly gives this movie 7 out of 10.
Review created on Mon 4 Jul 2005

Movie review statistics

Number of reviews: 2
Average rating: 8.00
Lowest rating: 7 (by pearly)
Highest rating: 9 (by andy-j)
 
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