Machinist, The : The Machinist DVD Review

Title: The Machinist
Starring: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Michael Ironside, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón
Director: Brad Anderson
Duration: 102 minutes
Released: September 2010
Certificate: 15
Format: Blu-ray

Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) works as a machinist. He suffers from really bad insomnia. He is so troubled by not being able to sleep that he is weak and emaciated. His appearance means that people think he is weird and no one really wants to spend time with him. He is involved in an accident in the factory where he works which results in a co-worker called Miller (Michael Ironside) loosing his arm. Trevor had been distracted and really wasn’t to blame but he still bears the brunt of his co-workers hatred over the accident. Was he hallucinating when he saw another worker that distracted him or was there someone really there? No one else saw the man that Trevor says distracted him. He only finds relaxation and anything resembling calm when he is with a prostitute called Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) or when he sees Maria (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón) a waitress.

I remember watching this film a little while after its initial release, back in 2004 or 2005. I was excited to see a film in which Christian Bale had invested so much time and physical effort, although I wondered how sensible he had been to loose so much weight. Bale reportedly starved himself for over four months prior to filming. His comments on the DVD extras suggest that he ate and drank very small amounts each day totalling approximately 275 calories. His food of choice was either an apple or a can of tuna per day. He says on the DVD commentary that he lost 28 kilograms (62 lb) and at the time of filming he weighed just 54 kilograms (120 lb), and had wanted to be even thinner, but was cautioned by the film makers not to do so. This weight loss was even more pronounced when you consider that the films that he made previously were ones that he had looked in very good physical shape for, and where he showed a good deal of muscle weight, such as Reign of Fire (2002) and Equilibrium (2002). What’s more is that he then regained all of the weight that he had lost, and more, to become Batman in 2005. One thing is certain – you can not question his commitment to his craft as an actor.

The film itself is a strange one. You basically wait for the first hour trying to figure out what is going on and why Trevor behaves the way that he does. What does the insomnia mean? Why is he such a loner? Is there something really weird going to happen? It has a feel of Memento, Fight Club, or Donnie Darko about it. It feels very odd. And then as the running time ticks down towards the end of the film, I remember becoming increasingly impatient to find out what had been going on all this time. What was the big twist at the end going to be? And then there really isn’t one. The film has a dreamlike quality. And seems a little postmodern.

I wondered back in my mind to think if I’d ever watched it a second time and realised that in five years I hadn’t watched it again. I’d always meant to but never got around to it. On this second viewing I did enjoy it more, I placed less emphasis on expecting something to happen and just enjoyed the performances more. Jennifer Jason Leigh really is a fantastic actor and of course Christian Bale always impresses, although I never believed he was the right choice for John Connor. I would have thought that
one franchise in the form of the series of Batman films would have been enough for him. Still who would turn down the chance to be John Connor?

Now viewing The Machinist again years later on Blu-ray I can appreciate the increased image and sound quality and I enjoyed the film more than I had one the first viewing. Despite a number of darkly lit scenes the picture quality is high throughout and it is a significant step up from the DVD picture quality.

Author : Kevin Stanley