If you like your movies dark, depressing, eerie, mysterious, and borderline insane, The Machinist should definitely be on your "to see" list. In these days of sequel- and remake-itis, it's always a treat to find a movie that dares to be original and to walk a dark line all its own. Director Brad Anderson and Christian Bale definitely get an A+ for effort here, but I don't think the ending is quite as effective as it could have been. It's easy to cross the line when you're dancing in a dark and narrow place, and the movie went just a little too far into "the whole world's crazy and everyone's out to get me" (which, on a completely unrelated point, is my personal motto) territory before bringing everything into focus. (That doesn't stop me from giving the film five stars, however - The Machinist is worlds better than most of the junk coming out of Hollywood these days.) Speaking of effort, I don't know what to say about Christian Bale - no Fat Albert to begin with - dropping 63 pounds in order to play the character of Trevor Reznik in this film. He is painfully thin here; a few less pounds, and you could zoom him right through your copy machine and have all the Christian Bales you could want. Why is his character so thin? Well, he hasn't slept in a year, and that kind of wears on a fellow after a while.
Trent is - you guessed it - a machinist. It doesn't look like a great job, but he obviously makes a killing, as he leaves $20 tips every night at the diner and enjoys many an evening with a call girl who sort of becomes his girlfriend. Jennifer Jason Leigh is about the only pretty thing you'll see in the 102 minutes of the film. We first meet Trevor when he's approaching his breaking point. The job of machinist can be quite hazardous, especially if you work with Trevor. When a guy punches in with two arms and punches out with only one, the co-workers get a little restless. Technically, it's Trevor's fault, but he was distracted by this seriously weird co-worker he had just recently met - a guy who, according to everyone else in the shop, doesn't even exist. As you might expect, Trevor becomes rather obsessed about finding out who the guy is and what he wants. As he goes increasingly cuckoo for cocoa puffs, his only links with sanity are Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) the call girl and Marie (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), his regular waitress at the airport cafe.
The best way I can describe The Machinist is to suggest that it must be a lot like one of Tim Burton's dreams. There's an oppressive pallor over the whole thing that seems to drain every single image of any color or vitality, and Trevor moves around rather wraith-like in his emaciated form. The mystery of it all starts out with great strength, but I think the director just overplayed his hand a tiny bit - and, by doing so, made the ultimate ending somewhat (but not completely) predictable. It's still a five-star effort all the way. If you just want to forget the world and be entertained for an hour and a half, seek your pleasure elsewhere. When you're ready to indulge the dark side of your personality and engage your mind at the same time, though, you could do much worse than settling yourself into a cocoon and entering the surreal world of The Machinist. This film is, in a word, different.