Review by Gordon Justesen
Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, John Sharian, Michael Ironside
Director: Brad Anderson
Audio: Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 2.35:1
Features: See Review
Length: 101 Minutes
Release Date: May 19, 2009
“I KNOW WHO YOU ARE!”
The Machinist presents to us a character that 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 Fincher’s 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 hasn’t 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 doesn’t have many friends. Strangely enough, he had a similar accident sometime ago, having lost his fingers—which 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 Trevor’s confessions of what’s 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 Trevor’s charming efforts.
Plot-wise, that’s 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 Bale’s 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 can’t believe that this is the same actor you’re 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 atmosphere for the entire film. It’s 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 Bale’s American Psycho, even though the films are somewhat different.
Surprisingly enough, the high-def upgrade didn’t wow me as much as the standard DVD release did, which I labeled as a remarkable piece of video. I suppose I expected the unconventional visual quality to shine even more in HD. That being said, this Blu-ray treatment from Paramount is still a most terrific presentation. As I mentioned in my DVD review, the film is most effective when viewed with the lights off, and that fact holds true in the 1080p. I did spot some grain in the picture that I hadn’t noticed previously, but that may have been intended to add more effect to the visual style.
However, nothing has been downgraded in the audio department. In fact, it’s even better! The Dolby TrueHD mix takes much greater advantage of every hint of sound than on the previous release. A thriller set against a murky atmosphere is usually bound to contain eerie sounds, which are captured to great effect here. Even the scenes set in Trevor’s work factory deliver quite an impact. All of the dialogue is wonderfully captured, as well.
Being that Paramount has been releasing many of their catalog titles to Blu-ray with the same DVD extras, it was nice to see some added bonuses on this release. All the previous extras are included, including a commentary with director Brad Anderson, 8 Deleted Scenes with optional commentary, a Theatrical Trailer and the making of documentary titled, “The Machinist: Breaking the Rules”. Exclusive to the Blu-ray are two new featurettes, “Manifesting The Machinist” and “The Machinist: Hiding in Plain Sight”, both of which are in HD.
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. On Blu-ray, it’s definitely worth checking out!