Machinist, The

Reviewed By Elaine Perrone
Posted 10/02/04 10:08:27

"The Machinist: A Skillfully Crafted Thriller."
5 stars (Awesome)

Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) is a man living in his own personal hell. He hasn't slept in a year, he can't eat, and he is tormented by visions that may or may not have some basis in reality, or may be completely the product of his steadily escalating derangement.

Working in a machine shop, his exhaustion leads to inattention, which in turn causes an horrific accident in which a fellow worker, Miller, (Michael Ironside) loses an arm. Never popular with the men with whom he works, who suspect drugs at the root of his mental and physical deterioration, Trevor is completely ostracized by them after the accident. His only solace comes from his relationships with two women, a call-girl, Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), who nurtures him lovingly; and an airport waitress, Maria (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, "I'm Not Scared"), who serves him coffee and pie, which he leaves untouched, every night. Both women gently scold the skeletal Trevor with the same words, "If you were any thinner, you wouldn't exist." Stevie offers to give up hooking to be with Trevor exclusively. Maria invites her lonely customer to spend Mother's Day on a carnival outing with her and her young son.

When Trevor isn't being comforted by Stevie or Maria, he is being hounded by a menacing co-worker named Ivan (John Sharian), who the other men in the machine shop swear doesn't exist. When he's not being dogged by Ivan, he sits alone in his apartment, writing Post-its to himself and obsessively scrubbing his bathroom floor with bleach and a toothbrush.

Someone seems to be breaking in to Trevor's apartment, leaving grisly souvenirs in his refrigerator and cryptic sticky-notes of his (or her) own. A strange little game of Hangman, in particular, sends Trevor's feelings of paranoia skyrocketing and leads to an unsettling confrontation between him and his suspected tormenter.

Director Brad Anderson and screenwriter Scott Kosar have crafted a brilliantly hallucinatory and claustrophobic tale that twists back and forth upon itself, shifting between past and present, reality and imagination (or delusion), and leaves the viewer off-balance and breathless. Like the diabolical funhouse ride to hell, Route 666, that is at the film's center, one is horrified by the carnage while simultaneously being unable to turn one's eyes away from it. The denouement, when it arrives, is at once unnerving and weirdly satisfying, a beautifully written, if tragic, closure to all the tantalizing ambiguity that precedes it.

Christian Bale is perfection as the haunted Trevor, a man literally crazed by personal demons that make his life a waking nightmare. Bale lost over 60 pounds for the role -- a third of his normal body weight -- going from about 180 to 120 pounds, but the weight loss is in no way a gimmick that gets in the way of or detracts from what is an astonishing performance. While the viewer never gets past the emaciation, it is Trevor, not Bale, who is the focus of attention, and Bale slips effortlessly into Trevor's skin (and bones!), becoming him.

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