Machinist

Movie Review by Neils Hesse

Starring: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanchez-Gijón, John Sharian
Director: Brad Anderson

Robert De Niro piled on the pounds for his pivotal role as Jake LaMotta in RAGING BULL, Tom Hanks remarkably dropped the pounds for his role in CAST AWAY, De Niro won an Oscar, Hanks didn’t even get a nomination, but he did get plenty of praise. How far is too far when it comes to method acting?

Christian Bale takes it to a whole new level in this dark and gripping film in his portrayal of the film’s central character, Trevor Reznik. Trevor works in a machine shop – he’s a machinist. Other than his work and his frequent visits to a hooker named Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) he doesn’t seem to have much going on in his life. Life would probably be pretty good for Trevor if he could get some sleep. For the past year he has weirdly been unable to sleep and he simply cannot figure out why. The combination of his lack of sleep and his constant inner searching to discover what it was that made him stop sleeping, has literally reduced his body to a walking skeleton. A horrific accident at his work place, caused in part by himself, initiates a chain of events that turn out to be something that may seem obvious considering one big red herring (no pun intended) that is part of the story but turns out to be something very, very different.

Brad Anderson has crafted a compelling character driven film, a solid combination of thrills and paranoia with heavy emotional grounding. Anderson wisely concentrates on his main character and other than Stevie’s character, Trevor drives the film forward and it is his journey that the audience connects with and follows. The cinematography is fantastic giving it a very dark and cloudy imagery and this perfectly suits the essence of the movie.

Despite several convincing supporting turns from Michael Ironside and Jennifer Jason Leigh, it is Christian Bale’s movie throughout. His actual weight loss is painfully shocking and his descent into paranoia is utterly compelling. Despite having the audience for most of the film uncertain of what his character is about, he manages to evoke plenty of genuine empathy for Trevor Reznik’s perils. This is what allows the audience to connect with the film – a truly remarkable performance.

All in all this is a film about the power of emotions and just how much they can impact on your life both mentally and physically and from that point of view it scores on many levels. As a thriller it is in parts predictable and leaves a few issues hanging, but it is still very watchable and definitely intriguing enough to see, as Bale’s haunting physical performance on its own is worth the ticket price.

4 out of 6 stars

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