What happens when Batman gets anorexic? We get "The Machinist," a psychological thriller starring Christian Bale in a shockingly physical performance where he lost a record 63 pounds to play the fragile insomniac who serves as the protagonist of the story.
"The Machinist" takes a look at Trevor Reznik, a man who is nothing more than a skeleton, a man who hasn't slept in a year, a man who goes through his work shift with hardly a comprehension of reality, and a man whose only close connection is to a single mother stripper. While a relationship grows between him and a pretty waitress, the rest of his world falls apart at the seams. After a horrific accident where a coworker is seriously injured, Trevor begins to suspect that people at his work are plotting his demise. His sanity is questioned when he claims to have been distracted by a new employee who doesn't exist. And why can't Trevor sleep?
Bale is one of those actors who up until this point hasn't received much respect, even though he is in reality a very good actor with some great performances under his belt. The boy in "Empire of the Sun," Bale has progressed from "Newsies," one of my childhood favorites, to "American Psycho," a screwed-up film where he delivered a masterful performance. Disturbed characters seem to be his forte, as besides "American Psycho" he was the best part of "Shaft" (he played the psychotic villain) - and of course most recently is Bruce Wayne, an individual who isn't exactly mentally stable. Here, in "The Machinist," he delivers one of his finest performances to date, and it's even creepy to look at him as he lost a dangerously large amount of weight to play the role. And in three month's time he gained it all back to play Batman.
Jennifer Jason Leigh also delivers one of her best performances in a long while.
"The Machinist" is much like "Memento" in many respects, only not quite so clever. The film is interesting and suspenseful, but the mystery comes from the deterioration of Trevor, not from the plot specifically. We know Trevor is mentally unstable, but just how mentally unstable is he? How much that he sees is actually real, and what has he done that is so terrible?
SPOILER ALERT. Unfortunately, while "The Machinist" never fails to intrigue, its twists are fairly predictable and not necessarily well done. The movie is filmed skillfully by Brad Anderson (who directed "Session 9," a so-called horror movie that I hated with a passion), but had he dealt with Trevor's insanity as more of a secret the movie would have been much better off. It is quite clear from the beginning that the new employee is a figment of Trevor's imagination; Anderson destroys any chance he has at blowing the audience away early in the film.
"The Machinist" is an interesting psychological thriller, but its one weakness is its inability to hide the true revelations of the protagonist early on. Nevertheless, Bale turns in the best performance of his career, and people will be shocked to see the physical transformation he went through to pull it off.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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