Film Fare...with Mark Moorehead
General Audiences: B
Hitchcock-like psychological thriller about a man wrapped up in a ball of confusion, paranoia and guilt. Brief nudity & sex. Will keep you guessing until the end.
Family Audiences: Not appropriate
Rated R for violence, sex, nudity and language. The film does have a powerful moral message that is unfortunately obscured by less savory elements.
Christian Bale stars as Trevor Reznik, a blue-collar industrial-machine operator walking around in a fog reminiscent of Guy Pearce’s character in Memento. In addition to some obvious memory loss, Mr. Reznik also suffers from insomnia, which has caused him to lose a considerable amount of weight.
No trick camera work or make-up was used to create the illusion of a skeletal man with hollowed eye sockets. Christian Bale dropped 63 pounds for this role, and his emaciated body is so shocking it reminds one of a death camp survivor.
Bale extended himself well beyond the call of duty as an actor, and the message he sends may raise a few eyebrows in both the medical and mental health establishments.
Anorexia and Bulimia come to mind. The recent phenomenon of actors and actresses gaining or shedding 60 pounds or more on demand to look like a character in a script has become cool and competitive.
In addition to Bale, Hollywood’s new up-and-down-the-scale club includes Tom Hanks (Cast Away), Charlize Theron (Monster) and Renee Zellweger (Cold Mountain). (Watch the fad wither when Julia Roberts gains 100 pounds to play the role of Momma Cass from the ‘60s pop group The Momma’s and the Pappas, and then can’t lose the weight.)
Besides working all day in a machine shop, Reznik finds comfort in the company of a plucky hooker played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who actually put on some weight for her role.
Leigh delivers a convincing and sympathetic character but provides nothing new to a role she has played before.
Reznik’s other extracurricular activities include frequenting a coffee shop at a local airport for a cup of coffee and a piece of pie. Marie (played by Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) is the coffee shop waitress Reznik has taken a shine to, and they eventually go on a date to an amusement park.
Director Brad Anderson shrouds Reznik’s dull routine in the City of Angels in muted colors (mostly gray), giving it an eerie and sinister quality ideal for this surreal Night Gallery-like mystery thriller.
Ivan, a new employee arrives at the shop. He is a big, balding big man with sunglasses and a wry grin. His presence signals the end of Reznik’s tidy world. A tragic accident occurs at work due to Reznik’s inattention. He blames Ivan, but no one at work knows who Ivan is. Little Post-It Notes with a hangman appear regularly in his apartment, along with a reoccurring phrase that says “Who Am I?” Everyone at work wants him to leave. Ivan keeps popping up. Is he being played? Does someone want him dead?
During Reznik’s amusement-park trip with Marie and her eight-year-old son, Director Anderson tightens the screws of suspense with a ride through a Route 666 fun house that clearly signaling reality has been altered and we see nightmarish things and people who don’t exist exactly as Reznik sees them.
Twists and turns will throw you off course as you try to figure this one out. Don’t be too distracted by Bale’s gaunt physique and crackhead-type behavior. He’s not on any drugs. Someone is out to get him, and he finds out that person lives really close to home.
The Machinist is not for everybody, but if you’re looking for a good mystery and a great musical score that sounds like the fusion of a soundtrack from Hitchcock’s film Vertigo and a ‘50s low budget horror flick, you’ll like this one.