Bale Skinnies Up
"The Machinist" is a visually captivating movie, not because it is beautiful, far from it, this is a movie with a subdued, washed out pallet which wouldn't be out of place in a horror movie. And if the grim pallet doesn't grab your attention then the skeletal body of Christian Bale, having dropped over 60 pounds on a diet of one tin of tuna and an apple a day to play the part most certainly will. But "The Machinist" is more than just visually captivating as it is also a movie which plays with your mind making us question what is real and what isn't in the life of insomniac Trevor Reznik, revealing one clue after another until suddenly we learn the truth. It's hard not to ignore certain similarities, there is something "Memento" like to the story but at the same time it's different and it is both fascinating and entertaining which when it comes down to it is the most important thing.
Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale - Captain Corelli's Mandolin) life is somewhat unusual, due to insomnia he hasn't slept in a year and he is becoming more and more paranoid especially when a series of bizarre incidents happen. The post it notes he leaves to remind himself to do things are being changed and at the factory where he works as a lathe operator there is a co worker only he can see. Things become so strange that Trevor starts to investigate what is going on as he starts to believe that everyone is working together in some sort of plot against him.
"The Machinist" starts with us watching Trevor dumping a body in the ocean, an almost comical scene due to it not going smoothly as he is interrupted by someone with a flash light. But immediately after we begin to question what is what as we watch Trevor in his room with a flashlight on his bed, did he kill the person with the flash light, was it some sort of flash back or was it something else. And so "The Machinist" goes on because as the story of insomniac Trevor unfolds, as we watch him go to work or visit the airport coffee shop or friendly prostitute Stevie we are never sure exactly what is what. And the minute we meet Ivan, the relief co-worker which only Trevor can see we become even more inquisitive because is he a hallucination, are his work colleagues winding him up as per his feelings or is he something else.
As such "The Machinist" is one of those movies which reveals itself through a series of clues which lead us to question what is happening. Why is Trevor so skeletal, what is with all the post it notes and what is so important about the time 1.30 which he keeps on noticing. And to be honest writer Scott Kosar and director Brad Anderson do a good job of weaving this all together with the actual big reveal coming at the 1 hour 30 mark in the movie. There is an almost ingenuity to it with things which happen which seem almost insignificant such as Trevor getting a reminder to pay his utility bill, it doesn't seem important but this then leads to a discovery and one step closer to the truth.
What is strange about "The Machinist" is that whilst it is a very memorable movie the actual ending isn't that memorable. I am not on about the big reveal, the big twist where suddenly everything makes sense but what then happens after that. Is it a weakness of the movie, not really as the movie works but it is annoying that the final scenes are not as memorable as the rest of the story.
Now as already mentioned director Brad Anderson gives "The Machinist" an almost horror feel. The washed out almost dirty pallet feels very different and the minute we enter the factory where Trevor works there is always this sense that something bad is going to happen. But the most visually captivating thing is of course Christian Bale who looks frighteningly skeletal as Trevor. It is impossible not to be shocked by how the usually fuller Bale looks and there is almost a repulsion to him in various scenes where we see him with his shirt off.
But Bale's performance is a lot more than just being visual as he creates this character who through lack of sleep seems to be suffering paranoia. We sort of warm to Trevor because he seems a genuine guy, he is friendly to Marie the waitress he speaks to each night and whilst he visits Stevie the prostitute there is a genuine fondness going on between them. It makes Trevor a very real character one who because of this we don't question the believability of what is happening.
Bale is not the only good performance and Jennifer Jason Leigh stands out as prostitute Stevie. Now you could say that casting Leigh as a prostitute is a case of typecasting as she has rather strangely played a few but there is something different about Stevie, there is this kindness which radiates from her, that she cares for Trevor. It makes her again someone we can warm to yet at the same time question.
What this all boils down to is that "The Machinist" is a very good movie, a movie which initially grabs you visually especially from the shocking way Christian Bale looks. But then at the same time it develops this fascinating storyline where we are constantly trying to work out what is real and what isn't, cleverly incorporating clues which all come together at the perfect time. My only criticism is that whilst almost the entire movie is memorable, the final scenes following the big reveal seem weak and forgettable.