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Michelle Thomas

Published March 1st, 2005 | by Michelle Thomas

The Machinist Review

Classification: 15 Director: Brad Anderson Rating: 3/5

Trevor Resnick (Bale) hasn’t slept in a year. Frighteningly thin, paranoid and unhappy, he drifts like a zombie through a waking nightmare. Trevor knows that things haven’t always been like this; that there is some mystery in his past, if only he could unlock it. When Trevor’s exhaustion causes an accident at the machine plant where he works, a new man joins the company. Trevor has seen him before, and decides that the mysterious Ivan (Sharian) is the answer. Now he just has to figure out the question.

Christian Bale goes quietly from strength to strength as an actor and here turns in one of those career defining physical transformations like De Niro in Raging Bull or Charlize Theron’s Aileen Wuornos. His weight loss regime (whisky and air/a daily can of tuna and an apple, depending which mags you read) has been documented and discussed for months. His thinness is extreme, so much so that its painful to look at him, his collarbones clearly defined by his taut taut skin, his face like a living Memento Mori. You admire his dedication to his craft even while questioning it.

It is very much Bale’s film – everything is shot from Trevor’s point of view, so that we know nothing he doesn’t know and follow his thought processes and deductions as he tries to connect the dots of his past. Unable to sleep, sick of his apartment and his nagging landlady, Trevor spends every evening at an all night coffee bar at the airport, where he makes friends with a waitress, Marie (Sánchez-Gijón), and makes clumsy attempts at some sort of normal life. He also regularly visits a tender-hearted prostitute, Stevie (Leigh), who seems to be the only person he can talk to. But can he trust her?

Director Anderson weaves a creepy little web of intrigue and misdirection and The Machinist is mostly entertaining and clever. Shot in sepia and filmed on location in a weirdly anonymous city (which, I was surprised to learn from the production notes, was in fact Barcelona), the film looks great. He draws fine performances from his cast; as well as Bale, the always watchable Leigh deserves a mention, her languid fleshiness serving as an earthy counterpoint to his spectral presence, though it is the sort of part she can play in her sleep (and has, in Last Exit To Brooklyn). The film also has some interesting ideas about sleeplessness and memory, straying into Memento territory at points. Unfortunately Bale’s weight loss tends to overshadow everything else, including his own performance – his extreme emaciation takes you out of the movie, breaking the suspension of disbelief. Its all too real.

The film grips like a vice until the final reel, where, as the mystery is gradually unraveled, the solution is surprisingly dull and pedestrian – and predictable to anyone who has read a Miss Marple. Its worth watching but sadly may end up being remembered primarily for Bale’s weight loss – a classic case of less not always being more when it comes to the movies.

Bring on Batman Begins…


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