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Sunday, 31 January 2010

Review: The Machinist (15) ★★★★
An industrial worker who hasn't slept in a year begins to doubt his own sanity

During the opening scene of The Machinist, two things become apparent very quickly. Firstly, its lead actor, Christian Bale is a long way away from the well-built healthy appearance he showcases in both "Batman Begins" and "Equilibrium". Having lost 40lbs (Just under three stone) for the role, Bale looks a sad skeleton of a man, haunted, broken and unwell.

As the camera pans out around Bale's sunken and battered features, taking in a pitch-black coastline and a deserted nightscape, the second more alarming aspect of the scene is revealed. Bales character Trevor Reznik appears to be frantically trying to edge a corpse, rolled in carpet, off the edge of a cliff.

As openers go, this obviously poses more than a few questions to the viewer (Who is this guy? Who's in the carpet? How did they both get there?), and this trend continues from beginning to end with twists intertwined throughout the films complicated plot line.

On the surface, Trevor Reznik has a reasonably basic, if not slightly unusual life. He lives on his own, he pays his rent on time and he works as a machinist in an industrial factory for an unappreciative and unpleasant foreman.

However, despite the exterior normality of Trevor's routine several things quickly indicate that all is not well in his life. Trevor cannot sleep and has not slept in quite some time. He spends most of his time, scrubbing both his hands and bathroom floor with litres of bleach. Significantly, Trevor's only human interaction outside of his day job is with a pretty but downtrodden prostitute (Jennifer Jason Leigh).

As Reznik's insomnia begins to take its toll on his mental state as well as the more than apparent punishment that is echoed in his gaunt reflection, things take a definite turn for the worse. Trevor's mind starts to become unravelled and his grip on reality is tested when a mysterious and obnoxious stranger named Ivan (John Sharian) seems to be deliberately making his life difficult.

The pace of the film is rapid and does not hold back on throwing key plot elements into the mix right from the outset. Because of its frenetic energy and relentless need for attention, this outing by director Brad Anderson (Largely unknown prior to this project, having being mainly involved in TV work) will test most peoples ability to take in all it has to offer in one sitting.

What sets this film apart from other titles I've watched this year is the sheer quality of both its acting and its direction. Bale is utterly convincing as Reznik and draws you effortlessly into his deranged world of uncertainty as it begins to crumble around him. An excellent supporting cast only works to strengthen the impact of the characters further with Jennifer Jason Leigh playing the tart with a heart to perfection.

Anderson's direction is deliberately basic (most of the film takes place in a handful of locations) but is utterly engrossing and proves to be a grounded but emotionally involving nerve shredder.

For those of you who enjoy tense, dark and overall entertaining thrillers, this film comes highly recommended and is guaranteed to keep you thinking as the credits roll.

For those of you who like your films straightforward enough to be able to watch over a Chinese while you decide what to do at the weekend, this probably isn't for you.

Review Submitted and Rated by: Dave Gledhill


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