Machinist, The (2004)

Starring Christian (American Psycho) Bale, Jennifer Jason (eXistenZ) Lee, John (Romasanta) Sharian, Michael (Scanners) Ironside

Directed by Brad Anderson

Trevor Reznik, a machinist, has lost the ability to sleep, but this is no ordinary insomnia. Trevor has not slept in a year. Fatigue has led to a shocking deterioration of his physical and mental health. Suspicious of his appearance, Trevor’s co-workers first shy away from him, then turn against him after he’s involved in a shop accident that costs a man his arm. They blame Trevor for the accident. He has become a liability to himself and others, and now they want him out.

Plagued with guilt, Trevor’s shame becomes suspicious, then paranoid, when it appears his workmates are conspiring to have him fired…or worse. First he finds cryptic notes left in his apartment. Next he’s told that a mysterious co-worker involved in the accident doesn’t exist. Are these mysteries part of a plot to drive Trevor mad? Or is it fatigue that’s robbing him of his reason?

Determined to find an answer, Trevor investigates the strange occurrences that are turning his world into a sleepless nightmare. Yet the more he learns, the less he wants to know.

In the interest of full disclosure, I should let you know that I’m a big fan of Brad Anderson’s previous film Session 9, which I feel is one of the most underrated films of the last five years. Unlike the vibrant colorful look of Session 9, The Machinist has a very dark dirty look to it (a la David Fincher) that helps set the mood perfectly for the tale that is about to unfold.

Christian Bale’s portrayal of insomniac Trevor Reznik is Oscar worthy if the Academy gives this film the time of day. Sadly I think the press this film will receive in regards to Bale losing 63 pounds for the role will overshadow how good this film really is. His appearance is shocking to say the least. The perfectly sculpted actor we envied as Patrick Bateman in American Psycho looks frail and sickly as machinist Reznik. Losing as much weight as he did for this role could not have been healthy. However, I found myself forgetting about his appearance and getting wrapped up in this intriguing story. Jennifer Jason Leigh is also superb as Stevie, his regular prostitute who is also his only real friend. It was nice to see the always underrated Michael Ironside in the role of Reznik’s co-worker Miller.

The pacing of the film starts out deliberately slow, which might make some people uneasy, but I think that is actually the idea. However, it eventually picks up steadily until the film’s climactic conclusion.

Anderson is quickly becoming one of my favorite directors. His choice of material and collaborators is brilliant. His direction gives you the feeling that you are right in the middle of Reznik’s world. His visuals, combined with Roque Baños’ haunting score, are chilling and don’t disappoint. However, you can’t direct a great film without a great script, and that is what screenwriter Scott Kosar delivers. Story-wise it is in the vein of Memento or Fight Club as it is about a man trying to find himself, trying to put his identity back together, but it also has a lot of originality that lets it stand on its own.

With The Machinist, Anderson delivers the goods: an intelligent, haunting psychological horror/thriller that I highly recommend.

4 ½ out of 5

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Jon Condit

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