“The Machinist” is such an accomplishment, an accomplishment that, big surprise, went almost unnoticed in Hollywood. It’s utterly refreshing in this day and age to watch a movie so intellectually stimulating, it’s fulfilling to watch a psychological thriller that demands the audience watch, pay attention, follow along, and decipher for themselves without falling in to the usual Hollywood conventions. Brad Anderson instills a lot of atmosphere and slow paced tension here for the audience, creating such a brilliant Lynch-esque labyrinth of a murder mystery.
Bale plays factory worker Trevor Reznik whose basically extremely thin and hasn’t slept in a long time. He seems basically content with the hand he’s been dealt, that is until a strange series of events suddenly make him think he’s being watched and he begins searching for his conspirators. But where his search will lead him will be his undoing. Bale’s first glimpse of himself is shocking. He literally looks like a walking skeleton; Bale who’s mostly muscular bears a transformation that is frightening. Spine, ribcage, chest plates, you can see them on him poking through his skin and his torment character is further introduced through layers of psychological torment and memories he just can’t shake, nor does he seem to know the meaning to.
Like Lynch, clues and surreal imagery pop up from all around the film that serve as signs to the shocking finale, and as plot devices to further relay the tension and atmosphere. Further exploration of the atmosphere that gives a sense of urgency and fear is though the environment around Trevor which is painted in such a sterile, cold, and pale mood that makes this such a grim tale. Is someone out to get him? Is someone trying to kill him or drive him to the edge of madness? Along with some excellent direction from Brad Anderson, the film’s tension mounds as the minutes pass, and you end up wondering throughout the entire story, where’s it all leading to? What helps move the story along further are the performances by Christian Bale and John Sharian. Bale is, without a doubt, amazing in this movie, his transformation in to this deformed utterly ghoulish being is shocking and Bale takes it for all its worth stealing the movie.
His form is not his human form, he’s a monster, his guilt has manifested and eaten him alive. The paranoia, and the murder attempts are his guilt, and as for who Ivan is, it’s all left to the viewer to decide. It could be satan, god, his conscience, guilt, sin, a ghost. John Sharian is truly menacing and intimidating as the mysterious Ivan who interrupts Trevor’s life and ends up playing a significance to Trevor, later explored in the climax. In the end as all the clues come together like a puzzle it wraps up as you’d expect, and it wraps up ingeniously. It’s a truly disturbing and twisted allegorical tale that sells. Bale proves leaps and bounds yet again that he’s one of today’s most talented actors taking a shocking transformation with an excellent performance. With a brilliant psychological horror story, and excellent direction, “The Machinist” is a yet to be discovered masterpiece.