The Machinist (2004, Brad Andersen)
Maybe you’ve heard that Christian Bale lost sixty-something pounds for his role in The Machinist, the gritty psycho-drama about a blue-collar worker who hasn’t slept in a year. Since physical transformations seem to be Oscar-buzz-worthy (Nicole Kidman? Charlize Theron?), I can’t say that I’m surprised at the hype on that part of his performance.
Bale has always been a tremendously underrated actor, though, and once again, he comes through for this movie. Fans of Memento and Fight Club will enjoy this existential mystery, a dark meditation on the nature of guilt and the tricks a man’s mind can play on him, though it’s not nearly as slick and sexy as either of those two flicks. The downside is that the same people who are likely to want to see it may feel like they’ve seen the tricks before.
It’s a surprise-twist movie, but the strength of it lies not in the twist, but in the superb acting of Bale as machinist Trevor Reznik and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Stevie, the call girl who ends up the sounding board for many of Reznik’s convoluted thoughts. The grey cast over the film, the stark landscapes, and eerie soundtrack contribute to the feeling of growing dread throughout the film, but what will haunt you later is not the surprises, but the look in Bale’s eyes when he finally answers the question: Who are you?
Now showing at Landmark Theaters. Go to www.landmarktheater.com for showtimes.