Tuesday, July 12, 2005

The Machinist (2004)


A Film Review

Copyright Dragan Antulov 2005

This year's record box office slump in America only confirmed what many critics claimed for years - Hollywood lost ability to bring anything new or attractive to the audience. There are very few mainstream films that could be characterised as original or extraordinary. One of them is THE MACHINIST, 2004 thriller directed by Brad Anderson.

Protagonist of the film is Trevor Reznick (played by Christian Bale), drill shop operator who suffers from insomnia and hasn't slept for a year. While this state of affairs didn't affect his work ability, it manifested itself in dramatic loss of weight and Trevor becoming alienated from his colleagues. Two bright spots in his life are Stevie (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh), prostitute who often offers services with a discount, and Marie (played by Aiatana Sanchez-Gijon), a waitress in an airport diner where Trevor comes every night. Trevor's life routine becomes to unravel after an enconunter with Ivan (played by John Sharian), sinister-looking man who claims to be his colleague. Ivan's presence distracts Trevor enough to cause a terrible accident and this is followed with mysterious post-it notes left in his apartment. Trevor begins to suspect that everyone around him is involved in a conspiracy.

Although set in unnamed American city, THE MACHINIST is very European film. Not only Barcelona provides locations, but also there are lot of references to European cultural legacy, namely the works of Kafka and Dostoyevsky. The latter provides one of the vital clues for the plot resolution. Dark cinematography of Xavi Jimenez and Charli Jiminez provides surreal atmosphere, very much like in 2001 Spanish thriller INTACTO. Roque BaƱos music, inspired by Bernard Herrmann's masterful score for Hitchock's films, also contribute a lot to THE MACHINIST.

The acting is, of course, superb. John Sharian, whose character looks very much like Marlon Brando's Colonel Kurtz in APOCALYPSE NOW, is very good. Same can be said for Jennifer Jason Leigh, who manages to push her "prostitute with a heart of gold" character beyond stereotypes. But the most impressive work is by Christian Bale who is almost unrecognisable due to spectacular weight loss which made Welsh screen icon resemble teen fashion models and concentration camp survivors. Bale captivates the audience not only by his strange appearance, but also by his acting skills and very credible portrayal of an individual's descent into madness.

However, effort by screenwriter Scott Kossar wasn't that impressive. The plot resolution is simple, banal and in many ways disappointing. The great plot twist is hardly original and THE MACHINIST will not going to be particularly praised by those more familiar with the genre classics. Yet, the great effort invested in this film is more than enough for THE MACHINIST to deserve recommendation. Another recommendation might come from this film replacing phrase "going De Niro" with the phrase "going Bale" in many vocabularies.

RATING: 6/10 (++)


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