The Machinist is a disturbing psychological thriller starring the excellent Christian Bale. This is a cleverly told and compelling tale, which takes the viewer on a nightmarish journey into the mind of a chronic insomniac.
Trevor Reznik is a factory worker spending gruelling shifts working with heavy machinery. He is a wreck of a man, literally wasting away and he hasn´t slept properly for a year. His workmates, the waitress at the airport and a local hooker are the only people in his life and they all seem concerned about his state of mind. Because Trevor is so sleep deprived he forgets things and has the habit of leaving post-it notes on the fridge for himself, which is fine until the appearance of a note he doesn´t remember leaving.
A new guy called Ivan starts work at Trevor´s factory and seems to take a special interest in Trevor, he naturally gets paranoid. Things are exacerbated when Trevor causes an accident at work which claims the arm of one of his workmates. As the film progresses it becomes increasingly difficult to identify what is real and what is the product of Trevor´s fading mind. He sees the world in a constant daze with the boundaries between sleep and wakefulness stripped away.
The acting performance of Christian Bale is simply astounding as he shows an incredible level of dedication by dropping to 120 pounds in weight for the role. He looks skeletal; at times it is almost painful to watch him with his huge frame protruding sharply through his pale skin. He perfectly captures the state of insomnia and portrays Trevor with consummate skill as a nice enough guy who is being brutally tortured by himself.
Jennifer Jason Leigh plays the prostitute Stevie, Trevor´s tenuous link to the real world and she convinces effortlessly. Michael Ironside is good as always in the part of the unfortunate Miller, the workmate who loses his arm and Aitana Sanchez-Gijon was the waitress at the airport.
The direction is by Brad Anderson and he shows a high level of skill. The scenes are brilliantly set-up, the reveals are nicely handled and he creates a sense of foreboding which stops just short of suffocation. The dreamy and nightmarish vision of life as seen through the eyes of Trevor is well-crafted and there are a number of subtle signatures which re-appear throughout the film.
The script is sparsely excellent, both believable and intelligent but some of the ideas may strike you as familiar. As Trevor gets closer to the truth the engrossing action takes more than a few surprising turns and the grim nature of the tale won´t be to everyone´s liking. This is pretty harrowing viewing at times as the emaciated Bale stumbles around in desperate need of some kind of resolution and his pain resonates with the audience through the force of his acting.
The Machinist is undoubtedly an unsettling film and it is unlikely to put you in a tap-dancing kind of mood. This is testament to the skill of all those involved with the production of this sombre tale.