Lady J reviews The Machinist

The Machinist 101 min., 2004
Written by Scott Kosar
Directed by Brad Anderson
Language: English
My rating: ★★★★

I just want to sleep…

* * *


An industrial worker who hasn’t slept in over a year begins to doubt his grip on reality.


Hello there, everyone. After a long work related hiatus, Lady J is back to review for you. Rather than try to come up with some witty repartee I want to just jump right in an go for the gusto. So here we go.

Going off my first gut reaction of seeing a VERY emaciated Christian Bale (Trevor Reznik) I must admit I thought WTF happened to him. In fact, my reaction was so visceral I had to turn the movie off the first time because it was too intense for me. I’d say, generally speaking, that if a director can get a rise out of their audience this early in the game they are doing something right. In stark contrast to the recent memories of a well fed Batman/ Bruce Wayne, the shock value was very prominent from the opening scene.

Here we have Trevor sweating, grunting, and heaving during the attempt to roll a body into a carpet. He drags the carpet covered corpse out to his truck, drives to docks, and scurries to dump the body before being spotted by someone with a flashlight. Trevor then proceeds to a bathroom where he vigorously scrubs his hands in scalding hot water and powdered bleach. We have not yet gotten 20 minutes into the film and I already just want to give Trevor a tranquiler and intravenously feed him meat and potatoes until I can’t see his spine sticking out of his back anymore. Yea, I’d say I’m a bit emotionally invested in this movie…

Trevor admits to a hooker that he has been seeing for quite some time that he has not slept in over a year. Not long after this admission Trevor meets a man at work named Ivan (John Sharian) whose presence seems to unnerve him. In fact, it is Ivan’s presence that distracts Trevor to the point that he costs a coworker their arm. What is more disturbing for Trevor is that when he is questioned by the authorities about what happened and he admits seeing Ivan, the foreman and the boss both tell him that there is no one working at the plant by the name of Ivan. After the incident at work, Trevor’s life becomes more nightmarishly disjointed. Little details keep popping up that haunt his every move. The thing is if I tell you what those details are, you’d look for them but in the grand scheme, you would end up missing the big picture.

I have to admit that after the first 10 minutes I struggled to keep my interest in this movie. The explosive beginning primed me for what I thought would be a very interesting plot. What I got instead was a bunch of those details that made no sense and didn’t hold my interest. I had a problem with the pacing of this film because of that and I didn’t think I was going to make it all the way through. After a pep talk from a fellow reviewer (Z. Carter) I decided to try to finish the film and I am glad I did.

The power in this film is not from the explosive beginning. It actually rests in all the little details that keep showing themselves. The entire movie keeps you wondering what the hell does all this mean. And that is the point. Because we are kept off balance the entire film, we don’t connect the dots until the character does. The emotional baggage is dropped in our lap at the same time it was dropped in his. I have to applaud the execution of the concept because it worked. Christian Bale looked the part of a man haunted by his own mind. When his eyes bugged out of his head as he is confronting a coworker over a perceived insult, he looks like a crazed maniac and I totally bought it. (I will admit though, that Christian’s teeth always distract me. He looks like he is wearing dentures that don’t quite fit right in his mouth. But I digress…) He looks hopelessly lost in the maze of details that haunt him. The other characters aren’t quite so memorable to me, but maybe that is because their part in this story was deliberately minor. They don’t drive the story, but they do in their small way help it along. The real co stars of the film in terms of plot are the myriad of objects that drive Trevor to become more and more neurotic in his behavior.

I will have to give you some sage advice about this movie. If you are going to watch it, and I highly recommend that you do, don’t do it unless you have the time to watch it from start to finish with no interruptions. I think this film would have been far more enjoyable for me if I had done this. The things that don’t make sense won’t have to because you just keep moving and watching for the next thing that adds to the character’s issues. Once all the pieces fell into place the entire movie went to being a near a skull to a solid 3 stars in my book. The pacing issue resolved themselves because it made sense that we could only move through his world as fast as his broken mind could take us. The only real issue I had was the choice of soundtrack. I think some other kind of music to give weight to the scenes could have been used. I felt like they were a little too heavy handed with twilight zone/ UFO type music. I know they were trying to go for eerie, but it was the wrong kind of eerie they evoked and maybe that is part of why I was initially disliking this film. The music came across to me as very cheesy. Ignore the weirdness or revel in it, either way you will enjoy this film. On that note, I bid you all good viewing. Until next we meet…

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One Response to Lady J reviews The Machinist

  1. Drew Simels says:

    Hey, Lady J, I have a copy of the movie on DVD and have watched it twice. Can’t say as I enjoyed it at all. I would like to find out if Mr. Bale put himself in some kind of jeopardy in performing in the movie. The explanation at the end was so much of a let-down that I cannot clearly remember it. I think it involves a motor v ehicle accident.

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