This is one of those movies that when I first saw left me completely mesmerized. Directed by Brad Anderson, who already made a creepy horror with an intense atmosphere three years earlier (Session 9), The Machinist is weird movie. Actually, writer Scott Kosar tried to sell the script to numerous studios but they all deemed it to be too weird. Before anything else, we need to talk about Christian Bale. After establishing himself in American Psycho, he decided to explore his options with post-apocalyptic fantasy Reign of Fire and stylish science fiction flick Equilibrium. There are only a few actors who were relatively famous and were willing to undergo extreme changes that roles demanded of them. The best example is Daniel Day-Lewis, famous for his method acting but weight changes are also a form of this. Bale dropped 63 pounds (28 kg for normal people) for this role and this seems to be the record, although almighty Tom Hanks dropped 55 pounds for his role in the movie Castaway. Bale here looks truly haunting, with his ribs showing clearly and popped cheekbones, you will have a hard time believing that this is really him. He even makes fun of his weight during the movie. As you probably guessed, he was phenomenal here and it’s no wonder that his next role was that one of Batman.
This movie is all about atmosphere. This hard, surreal and above all-consuming atmosphere is almost frightening. It’s like there was some satanic ritual in the city and some invisible vortex is sucking life out of everything. Characters here are at the same time pretty familiar but also so strange. When you combine all this, the pacing becomes a non-issue, because something is always happening. This ominous feeling that follows Trevor around somehow found its way, possibly through the screen, to viewers room. Because they didn’t use the usual gimmicks to make this movie more susceptible to the general public, this is actually the story of all us loners. I have always had trouble sleeping and often times I would found myself looking out of the window in the middle of night feeling the same atmosphere in this movie. Perhaps this is the atmosphere of capitalism, but whatever it is, it’s pretty fucked up.
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 just can’t put on any weight. They don’t like him and after a coworker suffers an accident at the factory floor, he’s blamed for it. His only friends are a prostitute and 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 a reality…
Don’t worry, The Machinist will wrap up Trevor’s story pretty effectively, just in case you thought that this is another one of those artsy-fartsy commercial blunders. Although I am not a machinist, I found myself feeling more and more like our protagonist Trevor. Finally, I also have to mention cinematography that was absolutely perfect. Long shots of that factory floor, Trevor thinking and just about everything else looked like a moving photograph. So, if you’re looking for those strange but great movies, this is one of them. Just be prepared that this is not your usual thriller.
Director: Brad Anderson
Cast: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, Michael Ironside
Fun Facts: The producers of the film claim that Christian Bale dropped from about 173 pounds in weight down to about 110 pounds in weight to make this film. They also claim that Bale actually wanted to drop down to 100 pounds, but that they would not let him go below 120 out of fear that his health could be in too much danger if he did. His diet consisted of one can of tuna and an apple per day. His 63-pound weight loss is said to be a record for any actor for a movie role. He regained the weight in time for his role in Batman Begins (2005).