The Machinist is such a good movie that when I first saw it left me completely paralyzed. This is, above all, an atmospheric and slow-burning thriller driven by Christian Bale’s committed performance. I think that by now The Machinist is known as “that movie with an extremely skinny Bale”. And if that’s the thing that’s going to make people watch this masterpiece, then so be it. A creepy, uncomfortable, and all-consuming masterpiece from the guy who brought us Session 9. If you’re looking for something less nasty, do check out Brad Anderson’s train mystery Transsiberian.
So, what’s this movie about? The Machinist is about Trevor Reznik, a factory worker suffering from insomnia. As he tries to get a grip on his life, he starts seeing strange and ominous things. And I’ll leave it at that as I don’t want to spoil anything for you. This is a movie best watched with as little info as possible. The story in The Machinist keeps getting more intelligent the more you think about it. And the twists you might have seen coming, get new dimensions and meanings. It’s like a snake that keeps coiling and coiling. A fucking Ouroboros.
However, the thing that blew me away is that thick, juicy, and haunting atmosphere. You feel like there’s been some satanic ritual and that some invisible vortex is sucking the life out of everybody. This surreal yet completely plausible and moody atmosphere is something you’ve undoubtedly felt at least once in your life. It usually appears after a tragedy or a series of events that didn’t go your way. You don’t feel like slipping into this strange new and depressing world thinking that nothing’s changed.
And if you’re a loner who also happens to have trouble falling asleep, you’ll be all too familiar with this feeling. I check both those boxes and have a version of this state of mind after a sleepless night. Sleep deprivation is one nasty thing. The atmosphere in The Machinist will somehow find a way to your room, seeping through the screen. And it will make watching this movie an immersive experience. An experience of a weird kind of escapism where you will realize that your life isn’t so bad after all. And if it is, at least you’ll know someone else is suffering as well.
The day at the factory just ended for machinist Trevor Reznik. He’s about half the weight of the other workers there, but suffering from insomnia he has trouble eating. They don’t like him and after a coworker suffers an accident on the factory floor, he’s blamed for it. His only friends are a prostitute and a waitress at the airport bar. They care for him, but he just keeps slipping away. He starts seeing this man, Ivan, who no one else recognizes or knows, walking and driving around. At this time, he doesn’t know if this is all dream or reality…
The characters in The Machinist are at the same time familiar and eerily strange. You feel like you know them but then you realize there’s something so weird about them. The story is full of mystery and this feeling of impending doom. And don’t worry, everything will wrap up nicely in the end. Just in case you thought this is one of those artsy-fartsy what-the-fuck-did-I-just-watch movies.
The early 2000s provided us with a couple of these mind-benders similar to The Machinist. I’m talking about movies like Memento, Donnie Darko, Spider, and Bringing Out The Dead. I would, finally, add one of my all-time favorites to this list although Moon is a science fiction movie. I feel like everything I’ve written so far feels redundant. And that I’ve just scratched the surface of this psychological thriller par excellence.
I also must mention the beautiful cinematography and long, lingering shots. You might think that they’re dull or boring judging by that description but they’re anything but. The scenes of the factory floor, Trevor thinking or just about every other scene feel like moving photographs. Like you could hang them in your room. They’ll be a bit depressive but all so fucking real.
Director: Brad Anderson
Writer: Scott Kosar
Cast: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Michael Ironside
Fun Facts: Director Brad Anderson and writer Scott Kosar offered The Machinist to every major studio but they all turned them down. The explanation was that the movie was simply too weird.
IMDb Link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0361862/