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Machinist, The


Rating: R

Distributor: Paramount Home Entertainment

Release Date: June 7, 2005
Review posted: June 8, 2005


Reviewed by Gregory L. Amato




"How do you wake up from a nightmare if youíre not asleep?" goes the filmís tagline.  Trevor Reznick (Christian Bale) is a machinist who says he hasnít slept in a year, though he canít explain why.  Pale and thin, his insomnia has obviously taken a huge toll on him both physically and psychologically.  His only respite is the affection of a prostitute named Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and the sympathy of his regular waitress, Marie (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) but that isnít nearly enough as he comes more and more unraveled in the face of mysterious notes left in his apartment, a coworker who no one else believes exists, and the paranoia of believing that people are conspiring against him.




Early shots of Trevor in the film show a man so emaciated that he should be barely able to function.  Bale lost 63 pounds in order to play this part, which was described as a "walking skeleton" in the original screenplay, and both he and Leigh play their parts convincingly, yet with an air of frail humanness that itís hard not to empathize with them.


Itís easy to see some things coming in The Machinist, and less so for others.  Dualities of characters (e.g., Stevie the prostitute and Marie the wholesome waitress) and of choices are very important here, as they set the tone of the plot and ultimately its conclusion.


But in the end itís not necessary to watch for every little example of foreshadowing or subtlety.  We want to know why Trevor canít sleep, who his mysterious coworker is, and what the notes he finds mean.  Is there really a conspiracy against him, or is he just going mad?  Trevorís social isolation adds to the surreal quality of the film, and we have to suspect that at least some of what weíre seeing is not actually happening.


This mystery is what drives the story, and one that weíre immediately pulled into after wee see Trevor transporting a body at the beginning of the film (which is then built up to later on).  If the hook in the beginning of the movie doesnít get you, the wonder of what would turn a regular, blue-collar guy into starving shade of his former self will.




The Machinist is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen.  Pale, washed-out tones alternate with shadowy scenes that have very little light at all, but the video is clear and compliments the tone of the film nicely.




The Machinist is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound.  Anderson has done a good job of keeping the soundtrack in the background while using it to enhancement moments in the film, and the dialog is clear.




The audio commentary by director Brad Anderson is very good for such a complex film.  Little things are explained and the fact that he spends more time on what he was trying to do with the film rather than rambling about difficult times they had on the set is a breath of fresh air.  He also gives a bit more insight into the final scene, which I found confusing in terms of its timing.  My one complaint about the commentary is the fact that Anderson spoils two other great films (Fight Club and The Sixth Sense) while referencing them.  Iíve already seen both, but many viewers may not have.


Two of the eight deleted scenes on the disc also have the option for audio commentary.  None of them are particularly interesting, and their exclusion is understandable.


The Machinist: Breaking all the Rules (25:16) details the difficulty of making a movie set in Los Angeles in the middle of a sweltering Barcelona summer.  Thatís right, they filmed it in Spain.  Commentary from several of the actors, Anderson, and some of the producers (who donít speak English) is interesting, but mostly itís commentary by screenwriter Scott Kossar that explains the filmís overview.  He did not intend to write a screenplay that would sell, he just intended to write something good.  Despite the inability to get funding from the United States, the project still worked out quite well.


The original Theatrical Trailer and some other previews are also included on the disc.




Often billed as a thriller, The Machinist is very psychological, but it doesnít have the action or excitement inherent to that genre.  Itís easy to see how it didnít get a tremendous amount of play in American theaters:  The film is unconventional, pessimistic, and melancholy.  That said, itís also a great story that stands up to multiple viewings and works as both a mystery and a character study.




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