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April 26, 2012

Midnight Movie of the Week #121 - The Machinist

There's nothing quite like a slow-but-sure descent into madness, especially when a talented filmmaker knows exactly what buttons to push.  And when that director is paired with a star who's at the peak of his game, the results can really be something special.
That's what I found this weekend when I (FINALLY) sat down with Brad Anderson's The Machinist.  You know how you sometimes hear that a movie's so great, and then you hear that a movie's so great some more, and then you hear that a movie's so great until you decide "Dang, I don't even want to see that movie right now because people say it's so great"?  Well, I do.  And enough people told me how great The Machinist was that it landed a spot on my backburner while I toiled away watching less cool stuff.
After all, we've seen 'heavyweight actor deteriorates rapidly as the world around him screws with his mind" plenty of times before.  It's a concept that can lead to a cinematic home run (The Shining), an uneven mindtrip (Jacob's Ladder), a cliched borefest (Secret Window) or even something worse.  Luckily for me - and for you, if you haven't seen it yet - The Machinist is a lot closer to home run status than those other films are.
Bale stars as factory worker (obviously) Trevor Reznick, who spends his free time drinking coffee, eating pie, and having sex with a prostitute (played in classic "But I have a heart of gold!" fashion by Jennifer Jason Leigh).  The one thing he doesn't do is sleep, claiming it has been a full year since he last slept.  I know that I get pretty loopy when I haven't slept for a good 18 hours or so, so I can't really imagine what a year would be like.
Anderson must have a much better imagination than I do, because his vision of what a year without sleep could lead to is dark and fascinating.  As Trevor begins to wonder about the places and people around him - including an ominous bald dude named Ivan - we can see the man slip further and further into confusion.  Bale deserves nothing but praise for the performance - devoting himself to the role so much that he lost an incredible amount of weight to appear sufficiently worn out - and the range of emotion he shows as Trevor is as good as anything the actor has done in the big budget films that would make up the rest of his career.
You can't really talk about the plot of The Machinist without getting too spoilery - like I said, this kind of film doesn't have the most original concept when you get down to execution - but Anderson keeps it feeling clean and interesting throughout.  A wonderful musical score by Spanish composer Roque Banos is sufficiently Hitchcockian, and there's a definite parallel that can be made between this film and Vertigo at times.  The Machinist is almost voyeuristic as it shows Trevor learning more about Trevor, and seeing the story develop feels perfectly macabre.
The Machinist is as good as advertised because the director and the star knew how to turn a simple story into something that feels like a feature length episode of The Twilight Zone.  If you're up for a late night mind-bender with production values through the roof and dynamic performances, The Machinist should not let you down.


Hey! Look Behind You! said...

I too waited a few years to see after the whole "hype" worn down. I was initially drawn to Brad Anderson after seeing Session 9 and after seeing it this I was sold on his work.

R.D. Penning said...

AMAZING MOVIE! Bale is a stud in almost... yes I said almost... everything he touches. They way he throws himself in to roles is amazing. Getting beefed up for Reign of Fire, losing 120 lbs to play the Machinist, and gaining the weight back in muscle to play batman... all within 3 years. If that isn't dedication, then it is sure bat-shit craziness.

Alex Jowski said...

This is Christian Bale at his best - losing all that weight to play such an amazing role. A very enjoyable film.