|The Machinist (2004)
Starring: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Ironside, Aitana
Director: Brad Anderson
It’s really difficult to imagine a film like “The Machinist” not receiving the kind of attention you would expect when its leading actor goes the extra mile for a specific role. “Raging Bull” was much-hyped for Robert DeNiro’s dedication to gain the necessary weight, as was “Bridget Jones’ Diary” when word got around of Renee Zellweger’s 5000 plus calorie diet of fast food and ice cream. Even “Copland” got a few nods for Sly Stone’s sudden weight gain, so where’s Christian Bale in the mix? As far as the moviegoer should be concerned, Christian made the biggest commitment by losing a reported 63 pounds for the independent project, and it pays off twofold in one of the actor’s best roles to date. Following in the same vein of “Memento,” “The Machinist” is a clever, taut thriller that will have everyone guessing right up to its avant-garde conclusion.
Bale stars as Trevor Reznik, a machinist at a local factory who hasn’t slept in nearly a year. Aside from the ironic inconsistency of being an insomniac whom operates machines on a daily basis, Trevor also washes his hands using powder bleach and fears that someone (or something) is playing dangerous games with him. His lack of sleep has caused him to appear comatose, and the only people in which he can find absolute solace is a hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and an airport waitress (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), but when a series of mysterious notes begin popping up in his apartment, Trevor must battle his own inner demons in order to come to terms with his boundless waking nightmare of insanity.
”The Machinist” is very Kafka-esque in both its style and content, and the film is less of a psychological thriller than an interesting character study of a man so desperate to run away from his sins that he’s literally crawling out of his skin. Along with Christian’s fearless performance as the sleep-deprived Reznik, “The Machinist” also capitalizes on its sharp and unconventional script, and features a remarkable supporting cast made up of veteran American actors and amateur actors from Barcelona, where the film was shot. This isn’t the type of film that you’d take your mother to go see (unless she happens to be a psych professor or an art film nut), but it’s also one that shouldn’t be missed. Hold off on the film for a rainy day when you’re already depressed, or wow your friends by showing off Bale’s impressive transformation with an actor double feature of “The Machinist” and “American Psycho.”
The DVD release for “The Machinist” offers a decent collection of special features for an independent film that didn’t receive nearly as much recognition as it probably deserved, so fans will be pleasantly pleased. Heading up the single-disc release is a full-length audio commentary with director Brad Anderson, who explains the production with great detail. The commentary is a nice compliment to “The Machinist: Breaking the Rules,” an in-depth making-of featurette that covers all aspects of the filmmaking process. Especially interesting about the documentary is that it actually shows what directors really do on set, right down to the selection of scene-specific shots, what lens to use, and more. Wrapping up the bonus material section are eight deleted scenes, and even though this is usually something that most DVD aficionados would drool for, a majority of the scenes are merely alternate takes with nothing new for the audience to experience. This isn’t a film for everyone, but if you’re picking up the DVD anyways, be sure to save some time for these enjoyable special features.