Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Title:The Machinist
Cast: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Sharian, Michael Ironside
Director: Brad Anderson

Trevor Reznick hasn’t slept in over a year. He is steadily losing weight. Uses bleach to clean obsessively. There is a man at work who is a bit threatening. But no one else knows who he is talking about.

Christian Bale has lost a good deal of weight to play the part of the Trevor Reznick in the psychological thriller The Machinist. The character is quite clearly someone in a deteriorating mental and physical condition. During the day he works as a machinist, visits a prostitute every night, then visits the café in the airport where he flirts with a waitress over coffee and pie. But at the same time he is going through the motions we have a man who is increasingly paranoid, are people out to get him? Or is it all in his head?

In the end the actual details of the plot and the payoff of the story are pretty straight forward, and something we have encountered before in other guises. But it is the performances, the extremes to which Bale takes his character, the leery and sinister performance John Sharian gives as the mysterious Ivan, that really give the film an edge. Coupled with the deliberate atmosphere that is created and maintained throughout the film, odd little occurrences, the constantly overcast and washed out environment all creating a certain colour and mood which so strongly informs the mood of the film.

The Machinist has been compared to Memento, and there is a similar sensibility to some degree. But in terms of the paranoid edge, and the verges into possible delusion one gets more of a sense of something like Pi. Plot wise, The Machinist could be compared to one or two other films, but to do so would probably give away the punch line.

The Machinist is wilfully weird as it verges into one man’s madness. Christian Bale gives the performance of his career, investing his physical image in the process – going from American Psycho or Equilibrium where he was more of a built up action man to this emaciated figure; Bale’s next cinematic appearance is as the new Batman, which should give even more of a contrast to how he looks here. Clever and conscious cinema, which provides all the clues, through the delusions, dragging the character, as much as the viewer, towards the horrible truth.

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