‘If you were any thinner, you wouldn’t exist,’ from the psychological thriller ‘The Machinist,’ pretty much sums up the movie. If the film were any more bleak and dull than it already is, then it would cease to exist and forever be shelved among other notorious titles like ‘Stir of Echoes’ and ‘The Village.’
The story of ‘The Machinist’ revolves around an extremely gaunt insomniac, Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale), who hasn’t slept in a year and works as a machine operator in an ugly, run-down factory. In his free time he can be found either sleeping with his hooker friend, Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), or chatting with a friendly waitress (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) at an airport cafe. But due to lack of sleep, both his mental and physical health suffer.
Things only get worse when he meets a shady co-worker, Ivan (John Sharian), who looks like a beefier version of Morpheus from ‘The Matrix.’ The only difference between the two is that Morpheus preaches answers, while Ivan raises questions; questions that drive Trevor to the brink of insanity. Trevor constantly hallucinates and soon encounters a mysterious sticky note on his refrigerator, featuring a hangman drawing. He begins to believe that every person he knows is part of some terrible conspiracy out to get him.
The characters in the film are very morbid and enigmatic, especially the confused and skeleton-like Trevor. Christian Bale lost over 60 pounds for the role and will, without a doubt, make many people squeamish upon their first glimpse of him. But while his appearance may appear frightening and obviously unhealthy, I don’t think it’s anywhere near as ugly and grotesque as Charlize Theron’s appearance during her portrayal of Aileen Wuornos in ‘Monster.’
Many people have been comparing ‘The Machinist’ to ‘Fight Club’ and in some cases it is a valid comparison, but as a whole it’s not. The film is a mix between ‘Fight Club,’ ‘Vertigo’ and ‘Memento,’ but the problem in ‘The Machinist’ is that it tries to borrow so much from these great films in order to make itself unique and become something it’s not. Ultimately, it falls flat.
The film has a very serious tone which makes its occasional attempts at humor feel terribly out of place. A scene where Trevor attempts to become a victim of a hit-and-run incident by trying to get run over by a speeding car will certainly garner many laughs and excite the audience but won’t help the film in any way. After all, the film is supposed to be a thriller, not a comedy. The film just doesn’t know what it wants to be.
The tagline for the film reads, ‘How do you wake up from a nightmare if you’re not asleep?’ This is probably one of the most generic taglines for a film I’ve ever seen. But it does its job by speaking for the film since ‘The Machinist’ already has a been-there-done-that feel to it. Halfway through the film, you become sure you know what’s going on, even though some things may seem too abstract. And by the time the film reaches its climax it’s too hard to care what’s going on with Trevor because you’ve already put the pieces of the puzzle together before he did.
As a viewer, the main problem with connecting to Trevor is that you don’t really feel his tiredness from his insomnia because he keeps on moving like any normal person would. In Christopher Nolan’s remake of ‘Insomnia,’ the audience was able to feel Al Pacino’s struggle with his lack of sleep, but unfortunately that is not the case in ‘The Machinist.’
Aside from the film’s unoriginal plot, it still manages to deliver some good points. The actors in the film executed their characters exceptionally well, and Christian Bale turned in a solid performance. But it was nowhere near as memorable as his acting in ‘American Psycho.’ The washed-out color of the film (similar to ‘Narc’), as well as the blue gel that overlaps the picture (like in ‘Minority Report’) gives the film a very dark and almost black-and-white look to it, which is nice to look at and allows the audience to get into the mind of Reznik and to see what he sees. Furthermore Roque Banos’ chilling score will definitely keep the tension flowing, if you’re not already bored by the film’s plot development.
Overall, I can’t say I hated the film, but I certainly didn’t like it. I can definitely see how some will appreciate the film, but I know many will turn away from it. As much as I’d like to tell you to go see the movie yourself, I can’t, even if you are a fan of Christian Bale. If you’re looking for a film that will top ‘Fight Club,’ ‘Vertigo’ or ‘Memento,’ do yourself a big favor and look elsewhere.
‘The Machinist’ opens in theaters everywhere Friday, Oct. 22nd.