J.D. Lafrance
The Machinist DVD Review

The Machinist

December 30, 2005

Director: Brad Anderson,
Starring: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, John Sharian, Michael Ironside, Larry Gilliard, Reg E. Cathey, Anna Massey, Matthew Romero, Robert Long, Colin Stinton, Craig Stevenson, ,

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DVD Review

J.D. Lafrance

After seeing Christian Bale all buff and beautiful in American Psycho (2000), it comes as quite a shock to see the physical transformation he underwent for The Machinist (2004). No trickery was done with CGI or make-up to convey his gaunt, emaciated appearance. It’s a film that beautifully captures that timeless feeling when you can’t sleep and yet are exhausted. His character is so desperate to sleep but is haunted by a past trauma that he can never escape no matter how hard he tries.

Trevor Reznik (Bale) works at a machine factory and is unable to sleep for a year. It is gradually deteriorating him both emotionally and physically. One of the side effects is an obsessive-compulsive disorder with cleanliness; he is prone to scrubbing his bathroom floor within an inch of its life. Reznik works and lives in an industrialized neighbourhood that could easily make him neighbours with Henry from Eraserhead (1977).

One day, he notices a strange, new man at work. Reznik wonders if someone is watching him where he lives. Is this real or is it all in his head, brought on by his severe sleep deprivation. At one point, a waitress asks him, “Is someone chasing you?” to which he replies, “Not yet.” Reznik’s life resembles a jumbled jigsaw puzzle and over the course of the movie he tries to make sense of it all and make them fit.

Bale’s physical transformation is so astonishing that it’s almost distracting. He reportedly lost 63 lbs. for the role and it shows dramatically in his sunken eyes and skin stretched taunt over his rib cage and spine – he is literally skin and bones. It takes the first 30 minutes of the movie to get acclimatized to his presence. Bale does a great job of showing Reznik unraveling and becoming paranoid. All he wants to do is sleep but his mind won’t let him. The actor brings his trademark intensity as he plays a man coming apart at the seams.

Like Lost Highway (1997), The Machinist features a protagonist who is not to be trusted because he could be imagining everything, creating his own reality featuring a mystery right out of a film noir. Like Lynch’s film and Memento (2000), The Machinist is a fascinating whodunit about perception, a cinematic jigsaw puzzle that we must put together along with the protagonist, someone who can’t or is unwilling to accept reality and chooses to remember things his own way.

Special Features

There is an audio commentary by Brad Anderson. He claims that Bale’s weight loss is party of the mystery of the movie. He also talks at length about the challenges of shooting an independent film in Barcelona, Spain. Anderson comes across as well-spoken and intelligent in this solid commentary.

“The Machinist: Breaking the Rules” is not your typical press kit fluff featurette. Bale saw his weight loss as a victory because he completely resembled his character as written. The cast and crew offer decent comments and observations on the film’s themes and the filmmaking process. This is an excellent look at the making of this movie done in the same style and manner of pacing that mirrors the motion picture itself.

Also included are eight deleted scenes. While they would have added to the overall atmosphere of the movie, it is pretty obvious why they were cut as they really don’t add anything terribly significant to the picture.

Finally, there is a theatrical trailer.

J.D. is a freelance writer who is currently doing research for a book on the films of Michael Mann. He likes reading anything written by Jack Kerouac, James Ellroy, J.D. Salinger, Harlan Ellison or Thomas Pynchon. J.D. is currently addicted to the T.V. series 24 and enjoys drinking a lot of Sprite. This is not a blatant plug for the beverage but if they ever decided to give him a lifetime supply he certainly wouldn’t turn them down.
view all DVD reviews by JD Lafrance


Rating: 87%



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