Put together a noirish plot, a dash of Kubrick-like production and an emaciated Christian Bale, and what do you get? A dark, intense film entitled The Machinist, which tackles the subjects of self-inflicted suffering and existential ideals with a moody, magnetic approach.
Christian Bale—who lost an astonishing 63 pounds for the role—is Trevor Reznik, a machinist who is caught in a desperate cycle of insomnia; in fact, Reznik hasn't slept in a year, and has begun to stop eating, too. Physically and mentally devastated, Reznik can no longer function—he can't sleep, eat, or even think clearly, and is rapidly becoming a danger to his co-workers. After a terrible accident occurs at the hands of Reznik, he begins to doubt his sanity overall and question the reality of the world around him as he slips into a riveting, and sometimes terrifying, downward spiral.
Although the plot of The Machinist shines brightly in the world of indie, philosophy-driven flicks of today, the real star of the film is Bale, whose unrelenting presence and exemplary acting skills direct the film. It is his yearning stare, gaunt form, and smooth, attitude-shifts from anger, lust, or bitterness that ensnare the audience, and entangle it in the complicated web that is Reznik's character. The other actors in the film also help develop Reznik, especially Jennifer Jason Leigh, who portrays his hooker girlfriend. Her character's bizarre, off-and-on devotion to Reznik makes for some enthralling scenes, and helps add various levels to Reznik's already intricate persona.
Another fantastically strange aspect of the film is its style of cinematography—fast cuts, unusual camera angles and an overall seedy production design all come together to give The Machinist a bleak, esoteric quality that oozes "Kubrick." Director Brad Anderson has created a film that reminds viewers of other puzzling hits like Memento, Fight Club and Donnie Darko by using a fitting script and amazing score to help make The Machinist complete.
As wonderfully intense and thought-provoking as Anderson's film is, it is those exact qualities that can confuse and frustrate viewers. The Machinist attempts to grapple with a number of harrowing issues all at once, throwing together guilt, loss of self, repression, and even the Oedipal complex; this concoction of various existential ideals causes The Machinist to struggle at times under its own weight.
Overall, Anderson mixes unique cinematography and an intriguing plot to deliver a classic with The Machinist; it is Bale, though, who steals the show and carries it over his decimated, suffering shoulders.
The Machinist (102 minutes) is Rated R for violence, disturbing images, sexuality and language, and is currently playing at Landmark E Street Cinema in Washington, D.C.
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