Review by Gordon Justesen

Stars: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, John Sharian, Michael Ironside
Director: Brad Anderson
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Surround
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Studio: Paramount
Features: See Review
Length: 101 Minutes
Release Date: June 7, 2005


Film ***1/2

The Machinist presents to us a character who is living in a consistent nightmare, and we are right there with him from minute one. The film itself plays like a hybrid mix of the work of David Fincher and David Lynch. And much like Fincherís Fight Club, the film manages to administer one final surprise after unfolding so unpredictably.

Right from the opening scene, we are thrown into the world of Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale), a man who seems to be losing a grip on reality, both mentally and physically, at a slow-but-sure pace. Acquiring the appearance of a nearly decomposed human being, Trevor admits to one of his few friends that he hasnít slept in a year. His skeletal figure has the few that do care about him very worried.

He works as a machinist at a local steel mill. His appearance, and periodic strange behavior, puts off his co-workers. This only increases when, after being distracted, Trevor causes a fellow worker (Michael Ironside) to lose his left arm in an accident.  

The distraction came by way of a man named Ivan (John Sharian), a bulky figure and fellow employee. He appears to be quite chatty with Trevor, something which he accepts since he doesnít have many friends. Strangely enough, he had a similar accident sometime ago, having lost his fingersówhich are now replaced by his toes.

Outside of work, Trevor only has two sources of consultation. The first of which is Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a hooker who seems to listen carefully to Trevorís confessions of whatís truly troubling him. Like all her clients, she does bed him, but she considers him a bit more special than the average customer. As his nightmare seems to evolve, he is right back at her door.

The second is Marie (the luminous Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), an airport waitress who serves Trevor on a daily basis. A single mother, she is given bigger than usual tips by Trevor, not just for service but for companionship it seems. She is both bewildered and flattered by Trevorís charming efforts.

Plot-wise, thatís about all that I can afford to reveal. I will only say that the movie grows more intense and suspenseful which each following sequence. And the final moments of the film provide a plot revelation that, for once, does the movie complete justice as opposed to being something of a gimmick.

Much was made about Christian Baleís jaw-dropping physical transformation for the role. As was the case with Robert De Niro in Raging Bull and Benicio Del Toro in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, you simply canít believe that this is the same actor youíre so used to looking at in other pictures. And think about it-Bale is a naturally slender guy, so to see him drop so much as 60 pounds for this film shows perhaps the most committed form of acting we may ever witness, simply because of the risks involved. Thank goodness Mr. Bale made it out of the transformation alive, as he prepares to don the Bat suit in Batman Begins.  

Director Brad Anderson, who made the highly underrated horror flick Session 9, has crafted another mesmerizing piece of effective and assaulting cinema with The Machinist. Like Fight Club, it stays true to its grim and atmosphere for the entire film. Itís a most unforgettable, and brilliantly brutal, psychological journey that will stick with you long after you see it.

On a final note, this would make quite a good double feature along with Baleís American Psycho, even though the films are somewhat different.

Video ****

This is a remarkable piece of DVD video from Paramount. Hardly ever has there been such a magnificent treatment of a film with such an unyielding murky atmosphere. Come to think it, there really isnít any shed of light in the film until the last half hour. Image quality is nothing short of superb, and colors, which are mostly that of a dark green in the dimly lit shots, are visually effective. To make the viewing more effective, it may help to watch this with the lights turned off.

Audio ***

Even though this is a mostly dialogue driven film, the thriller portions of the movie allow a great deal of sound to provide quite a strong effect. Certain set pieces, i.e. the machine factory, deliver a superb level of surround sound. Dialogue delivery and music playback also earn this presentation bonus points. A splendid job.

Features **1/2

The disc includes a commentary from director Brad Anderson, a revealing documentary titled ďThe Machinist: Breaking the RulesĒ, 8 deleted scenes, a theatrical trailer and several bonus trailers for additional Paramount titles.


With a consistent dark tone and a magnificent tour de force from the very bold Christian Bale, The Machinist is one twisted film that is both a superb thriller and a most effective character study. In other words, itís a film that contains very much the best of both worlds for film fans.

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