Distributed By: Paramount Pictures
Reviewed by Melissa Minners
I had passed the movie The Machinist in the video stores on several occasions. The previews of the film seemed rather strange and I wasn’t at all certain that I wanted to see it. I had heard terrific things about Christian Bale’s acting in the film and how he was so dedicated to portraying the role well that he dropped a crazy amount of weight (62 pounds) for the part. However, it wasn’t until I had read a review of the movie in Dark Wisdom: The Magazine of Dark Fiction: Issue #9 that I decided this was a movie that I might want to see.
As the movie begins, we meet Trevor Reznick (Christian Bale), an industrial machinist by trade. For the past year, Trevor has been suffering from acute insomnia. He has become sullen, losing weight at a tremendous rate. An emaciated skeleton of his former self, Trevor has begun to scare off fellow co-workers that once considered him friends. In fact, the only people who seem not to be scared off by Trevor are a waitress at the local airport (Anita Sánchez-Gijón) and a hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) he’s been visiting for quite some time. Trevor’s sleep loss has been effecting his memory and he has taken to writing himself little Post-it notes, reminding him when to pay the rent, the utilities, buy things at the store, etc.
Just when Trevor believes that his life couldn’t get worse, he is involved in an accident at work, which causes a co-worker (Michael Ironside) to lose his arm. Guilt over the accident consumes Trevor, and his strange actions of late have alienated his co-workers to a point where they now blame him for the accident as well. That’s when everything begins to go downhill. Trevor begins to find notes on his refrigerator featuring a hangman game…notes that he is certain he didn’t leave for himself. Paranoia takes over and Trevor begins to believe that his own co-workers and a mysterious man named Ivan (John Sharian) are setting him up.
The tagline of The Machinist is “How do you wake up from a nightmare when you’re not asleep?” I find this very appropriate. Christian Bale does an incredible job portraying Trevor, a man so consumed by guilt it threatens to destroy him. The movie is actually one huge psychological mystery and viewers will find themselves putting clues together to discover whether Trevor is being victimized or if it’s all in his imagination.
I had some idea as to what this movie was about prior to renting it, but, thankfully, I had no idea what the ending had in store for me. If you are planning to rent this film, don’t let anyone tell you what the ending is – it will ruin the movie for you. Piecing together the clues and solving the puzzle that is Trevor Reznick is the fun part of watching this film. If someone were to tell you the solution to the puzzle before you began to piece it together, it would spoil the fun.
Want to have some more fun – watch The Machinist twice. The first time you watch it, try to figure out what the outcome of the movie might be. The second time, look for all of the little clues you might have missed. Here’s a hint – clocks are a big part of this movie and there is a significance to the times featured in the film.
I truly enjoyed the psychological puzzle that is The Machinist. As I said before, Christian Bale was truly incredible as Trevor Reznick. His devotion to this movie and to portraying the role properly is what made this movie work. I’m not sure that the character of Trevor Reznick would have worked had Bale not opted to lose all of that weight, causing him to look like a survivor of a Nazi prison camp. To have seen Bale as the muscular Batman, and then watch him as the haunted machinist – the transformation is amazing!
In closing, if you truly enjoy films that make you think…if you enjoy solving puzzles to discover the underlying plot of the film, then The Machinist is definitely the movie for you!