by Kevin Carr
|| MOVIE: *** (out of 5 stars)
BLURAY EXPERIENCE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
Christian Bale as TREVOR REZNIK
Jennifer Jason Leigh as STEVIE
Aitana Sánchez-Gijón as MARIE
John Sharian as IVAN
Michael Ironside as MILLER
Studio: Paramount Classics
Directed by: Brad Anderson
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Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) is a lonely man who works in a machine shop. He hasn’t slept for the better part of a year, and he is losing weight at a remarkable rate. He soon falls into a downward spiral of depression and paranoia. There is something eating away at Trevor that he has to discover, as he deals with the bizarre characters that haunt his life.
WHAT I LIKED
It is impossible to talk about the good qualities of “The Machinist” without giving a nod to Christian Bale, who dropped a terrifying amount of weight for the role. I wouldn’t say that Bale is the only actor who could play the role, but it had to be done by someone with his level of method commitment.
Bale’s skeletal frame is the fascinating centerpiece of this movie. He is truly wasting away on camera, and it is remarkable to watch. In fact, it is the look of Trevor Reznik that gives “The Machinist” its look of horror. As is pointed out in the bonus material, this method may not be smart and it may not be heroic, but it was necessary for this film.
“The Machinist” is a dark film that contemplates many heavy issues – from guilt to morality. It’s not necessarily a fun or loveable picture, but it is interesting and entertaining. Director Brad Anderson has yet to make a really big splash in the movie industry, but he never fails to deliver a thought-provoking film. And by refusing to capitulate to early potential financiers, eventually necessitating moving the production to Barcelona, Anderson keeps his vision fresh and stark. This is part of what makes “The Machinist” work, it’s dark nature.
This film will always be paired in my mind with another reality bending film from 2004, “The Jacket,” and not just because both movies feature Jennifer Jason Leigh. Both films were dark and haunting, and neither was a big money-maker. However, both films had a degree of creepiness and eerieness that will help them live in my memory.
WHAT I DIDN’T LIKE
Here’s where I’m conflicted with “The Machinist”: For all the parts of the film that I enjoyed, the same things bothered me to a certain degree. With the exception of Bale’s committed weight loss, the rest of the elements that made the film somewhat unique also made it a bit of a cliche. Things like the hooker with the heart of gold and the predictable twist ending made this film as amateurish as it was brilliant.
This all becomes apparent when you watch the behind-the-scenes material in which writer Scott Kosar explain how clever he was in developing the screenplay. By pointing out all the hints and hidden clues in the film, Kosar reveals that “The Machinist” was an early piece by someone who took one too many screenwriting classes and desires to put too much symbolism and cleverness into their work. In the end, the twist ending reveals a very literal interpretation of the story which, left unexamined, works fine.
The new Blu-ray release of “The Machinist” includes an audio commentary by director Brad Anderson and high definition featurettes. “Manifesting the Machinist” is behind-the-scene documentary about the making of the film. You’ll have to follow some subtitles (because much of the crew was Spanish-speaking), and the production value is a little low on this piece, but it does offer a grounded view of the end-to-end filmmaking process.
The other hi-def featurette includes “The Machinist: Hiding in Plain Sight,” which features Kosar and Anderson explaining all their hidden clues and hints in the film. Some of these are a bit obvious, and some are stretches, but it’s a way to have things spelled out to the casual viewer.
Rounding out the bonus material is another featurette called “The Machinist: Breaking the Rules,” some deleted scenes and the original theatrical trailer.
WHO’S GOING TO LIKE THIS MOVIE
Fans of independent and European thrillers... and anyone who wants to see how skinny Bale was allowed to get.