Christian Bale, better known for his role in the Batman trilogy, stars in Brad Anderson’s “The Machinist,” a psychological thriller set in the gloomy confines of a guilt-ridden insomniac’s psyche.
Bale plays Trevor Reznik, a machine operator who hasn’t slept in more than a year. His sleep deprivation leaves him emaciated and paranoid, slipping in and out of reality. Unfortunately, Reznik’s situation becomes direr when he’s involved in an accident at work, leaving a coworker minus a limb.
From there, Reznik’s paranoia grows as those around him become weary of his presence and call for his resignation. However, Reznik believes the accident was new employee, Ivan’s (John Sharian) fault. That is until his employers inform Reznik Ivan doesn’t work for the company, thus the ensuing madness.
It’s at this point the film’s protagonist begins to spiral toward insanity. Reznik believes Ivan and his coworkers are out to get him, unforgiving of the horrible accident. In his effort to discover the conspiracy, Reznik seeks the comfort of the naïve, though kind prostitute Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and Marie (Aitana Sanchez Gijon), an airport waitress.
However, Reznik begins to suspect Stevie is in on the conspiracy when he discovers a photograph of Ivan on her nightstand, though, she informs him, he gave her the picture.
The movie has drawn some comparisons to other movies of the genre like “Memento.” However, unlike “Memento” the film’s ending is conclusive and climatic, leaving viewers nodding their heads saying, “Now I understand.”
Though the story and characters were derived from Dostoevsky novels (The Idiot and The Brothers Karamazov, etc.) and the band Nine Inch Nails (lead singer Trent Reznor) giving the film a more moody feel, it’s Bale’s acting that catapults the movie into the upper echelon of films released in 2004.
The usually muscular Bale, who tipped the scales at more than 200 pounds for “Batman Begins,” lost 80 pounds for the role, slimming down to 120 pounds in a few months. Bale is both physically appalling and compelling in the film, as his sunken cheeks, visible vertebrae and hollow eyes are reminiscent of an Auschwitz survivor.
Though physically he’s frightening and repulsive, it’s Reznik’s humanity that lends sympathy to his nightmare world.
The film is a journey into the madness of a guilt-laden conscious.
It highlights the consequences of guilt and introduces us to the world of the mentally perturbed. It reminds us that no matter how far we push our life’s unwanted memories into the subconscious, they eventually wade to the forefront. Truth always rises to the top.
“The Machinist” is rated R for violence, disturbing imagery, sexuality and language.