Go to Dictionary.com, and it will tell you that ‘guilt’ is defined as “self-reproach for supposed inadequacy or wrongdoing”. Watch The Machinist, and you might just see what extreme guilt can do to a man.
Of course, you might just see a very skinny man in a very bizarre film. The Machinist kind of blurs the line between the two.
Christian Bale stars as Trevor Reznik, a man who is suffering from insomnia, having not slept for a year, and, after causing an accident at the machine shop where he works, he starts to realise that he is breaking up. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he meets a workmate named Ivan, who he cannot see, has a girlfriend who is also a hooker (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), and is possibly being chased by someone trying to frame him for a murder.
Really, all of these things are just foliage for the main purpose of the movie – a bizarre visual presentation of the effect that guilt can have on a man.
For me, it didn’t really work. I mean, its remarkable that Christian Bale lost 63 pounds for this movie, and he is a great actor, but, for my money, the story just wasn’t powerful enough for this kind of translation. Director Brad Anderson did have a great idea – and the movie is a good idea, no doubt – but it just seems like the wrong way to pull it off.
At the root of this issue is the fact that the ending left me wondering what the point was. Without putting too fine a point on it, the ending was a letdown after such a strange movie.
And the movie was strange – from make-believe workmate Ivan, who had 2 toes instead of fingers on his left hand, to the mysterious notes around Reznik’s apartment, to the fact that he washes his hands with bleach and lye instead of soap (I mean, who does something like this?!). From start to finish, The Machinist was a strange movie, and not in a good way.
It really did have me wondering. But to be honest, I don’t know if I was wondering what was happening, or wondering why I was watching it.
Its one redeeming quality was the cast – Christian Bale is a favourite of mine, since his turn as Patrick Bateman in thriller movie American Psycho. Jennifer Jason Leigh was good too, although we saw a little too much of her (if you know what I mean). The supporting players, including Ivan, Reznik’s other workmates, and Maria, the waitress at the airport, all did their jobs well. Brad Anderson is a good director, instilling suspense and ending up with a very attractive film.
But at the end of the day, I’m not sure the story was deserving of that kind of suspense. I give it a 5.5 out of 10.