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The Machinist

September 5, 2010

The Machinist (2004)
Director: Brad Anderson
Actors: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon

Synopsis: Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) is an emaciated, insomniac machinist who is culpible in a terrible industrial accident one day at work. Thereafter, everything spirals out of control….

Review: Despite certain assets, The Machinist cannot help but seem excessively derivative, host to an amalgamam of ideas mined in far superior ‘existentialist’ thrillers of the last few years. Fight Club’s playful notion of trauma-induced schizophrenia is alluded to here, and Memento’s idea of a fragmented narrative held together by an unreliable narrator is also apparent. The prime flaw of the film though is the sense that the filmmakers want to have their narrative cake and eat it – hawking fashionable ideas behind a veneer of unoriginality and an inconsistent tone. That makes the film seem directionless, with every scene being played out for its generic horror aesthetic, and the ending appearing too literal, neat and prescriptive. One could only imagine what a director of the ilk of a Lynch or Cronenberg would make with such promising material. There are some commendable elements to the film, namely the sincerity with which it taps into some dark subject areas (ably assisted by a chilling and spare musical score).

A review of the film would also be remiss without a mention of Christian Bale’s staggering weight loss and physical transformation for the main role. While it is quite a sight, and does have a certain rhetorical impact, it’s hard to escape the feeling that there is something unnecessary, disingenuous and almost quite distasteful about the whole effect. As persuasive and awe-inspiring as it may seem, one has to question the necessity of such a drastic piece of character-acting and whether it’s compensating for the paucity in other areas of the film’s realisation. (September 2008)

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