The feeling of guilt operates on many levels and most of them are
destructive. Except, of course, to the therapists who thrive on patients
willing to pay well to deal with and, sometimes, escape its clutches. Trevor
Reznik (Christian Bale) seeks a quite different form of therapy to deal with
issues of self-penance in this psychological study that enters the area of
When we meet Reznik, he's as gaunt as a Picasso painting of a high school
bulimic might be. He's a walking pile of bones with every vertebrae so
clearly defined that he'd make a good model for a human anatomy class. He's
not complaining about his appearance nor the impossibility of sleep, however,
and proceeds with his life. He may not look it, but he's strong enough to
run his machine at the shop where he works, as well as to perform with
Stevie, a prostitute (Jennifer Jason Leigh) every other night. On other
nights he takes a trip out to the airport diner for coffee. When his
waitress Marie (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), for whom he's developing a fondness,
talks him into a little pie, he leaves it uneaten.
On a break at work, he sits in his car and suddenly becomes aware of a man in
a car next to his--someone he's never seen before. The skin-headed,
over-confident Mussolini type (John Sharian) introduces himself as Ivan and
explains that he's been brought up from the basement to replace one of
Reznik's co-workers in the shop. Later, while helping fellow machinist
Miller (Michael Ironside) do a repair on his machine, Reznik's attention is
drawn to Ivan working with a welding torch. Something about this hellish
appearance of the stranger causes Reznik to back into a switch that turns
Miller's machine on at a very bad time. His co-worker loses his arm.
The strangenesses begin to pile up and we begin to perceive that much of this
is hallucination, probably brought on by the sleeplessness and the
starvation. Who can argue? A cryptically incomplete drawing appears on
Reznik's refrigerator like a clue to solving a mystery but creating one of
its own. The mystery builds as the drawing later appears more and more
complete as Reznik attempts to puzzle it out.
Marie, his attractive waitress at the airport diner invites him to an outing
with her and her young son where he has deja vu visions and then winds up
with the kid in an altogether too realistic horror pavilion, "Route 666." His
relationship with the prostitute proceeds to talk about marriage. The
strange man reappears as a confidant and as an accuser.
Is this a nightmare, a paranoid fantasy, the delusions of a man slipping into
madness? Somewhere in this trail to dementia as we try to sort out the real
from the imagined, we understand that a deep seated need for self punishment
is a driving force. But, punishment for what? Have we seen the sources of
such deep-seated guilt to explain what this man is doing to himself and
putting himself through?
Which is exactly the question writer Scott Kosar and director Brad Anderson
want to raise before they reveal the macabre interior psychosis that
is driving their drama. This is a film that Roman Polanski, the director of
"Repulsion," would have loved to do. Its pale reality is underscored
fittingly by the bloodless color palette of Spanish cinematographers Xavi
Gimenez and Charlie Jiminez whose desaturation to the blues and cyans (of a
prison cell?) mirrors the cold regions of insanity.
Own it today! (Click on item link)|
The Blu-ray Edition DVD
Audio Commentary by director Brad Anderson
Manifesting the Machinist (HD)
The Machinist: Hiding in Plain Sight (HD)
The Machinist: Breaking the Rules
With this performance, Christian Bale enters a rare pantheon of psychological
figures who take us into their worlds of fascinating madness. Just as
wardrobe and makeup assists the actor in the portrayal of a role, Bale
carried it into the realm of the physical. To do it, out of dedication to
his craft and to the world of Resnik, he put himself through actual
health-endangering weightloss beyond anyone's expectations.
Bale lost 63 pounds, way more than writer Scott Kosar and director Brad
Anderson ever asked him to do. But all who see this film will likely agree
that it makes for a heightened sense of reality and an intriguing poster. It
also brings the concept of "inhabiting a role" to a new level of realization.
Kudos, if not awards, to Mr. Bale!
Don't know about you, but I'm now going out for some prime rib, a pitcher of
beer and some kind of whipped cream desert. Hmm.. maybe chocolate cheesecake.
And, Mr. Bale, you're invited to join me!
~~ Jules Brenner