The Machinist, directed by Brad Anderson, is an atmospheric and unsettling psychological thriller that ponders the consequences of living in a nightmare you cannot wake up from. It features an extremely emaciated Christian Bale who lost 63 lbs — down to 120 lbs– for the role. He reportedly wanted to get his weight down all the way to 99 lbs but the filmmakers would not let him process for his sake. Talk about dedication to his craft!
Trevor Resnick (Christian Bale) is a machine-shop operator who suffers from a severe form of insomnia and hasn’t slept in a year. This condition has left him shockingly thin and increasingly paranoid, blurring the line between what is real and what is not. When Trevor meets a mysterious new co-worker named Ivan (John Sharian), his life turns for the worse. While helping a co-worker (Michael Ironside) repair his machine, the exhausted Trevor is distracted by Ivan and causes a terrible accident. Trevor becomes even more paranoiac and convinced that everyone is plotting against him when he is told that no one has ever heard of a new worker named Ivan.
Christian Bale undergoes a career-defining physical transformations here and his extreme thinness is quite unsettling, even worrisome to watch. He is literally skin and bones and certainly put his health at risk but this doesn’t distract much from his terrific performance as the physically and psychologically decaying Trevor Resnick. This is certainly his movie as he is virtually on every frame and everything is shot from his point of view, so that we know nothing more than he does and follow his thought processes as he attempts to uncover the mystery of his life. Is he hallucinating? Slipping into madness? Lonely, alienated, living in a crummy apartment, Trevor finds a little solace when he spends most evenings at an all-night coffee bar at the airport, where he befriends a waitress, the cheerful Marie (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón). He also regularly visits a good-hearted prostitute, Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who is clearly taken to him and is the only person he can confide to.
Beautifully shot in Barcelona but given the impression that it could be any nondescript American city, The Machinist has a grim, desaturated and menacing cinematography that leads the viewer to see the world through Trevor’s eyes. Brad Anderson extracts fine performances from his cast. The always reliable Leigh is noteworthy, her healthy figure counterbalancing Bale’s skeletal presence. “If you were any thinner, you wouldn’t exist”, she often tells Trevor. The soundtrack by Rogue Banos is solid, contributing to the Hitchcock-like feel of the movie. Quickly paced at a compact 101 minutes, the film is gripping and intense until the final chapter where, as the mystery is gradually unearthed, the solution is somewhat disappointing in how simplistic and predictable it really all was.
An atmospheric psychological thriller, The Machinist falls a bit short at the end despite a haunting performance from Christian Bale.
Lesson of the Day: Watch that road!
Notes: Rated R for violence and disturbing images, sexuality and language., 101 min.