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With: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sanchez-Gijon, Michael Ironside, John Sharian
Written by: Scott Kosar
Directed by: Brad Anderson
MPAA Rating: R for violence and disturbing images, sexuality and language
Running Time: 102
Date: 01/18/2004

The Machinist (2004)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Vexed Machine

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Brad Anderson's The Machinist arrives with a boldly intimidating look, all gray-blue machine metal with ominous skies and dreary streets. Living in this world is Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale), a loner who works as an operator in an industrial machine shop. Trevor's acute insomnia has prevented him from sleeping for a whole year. Worse, he keeps losing weight. Astonishingly, Bale lost 64 pounds to play the part and just looking at him can make you squirm. He shuffles through his half-life with his eyes half-shut, murmuring in slow motion to the few people he ever speaks to. A prostitute he frequently visits (Jennifer Jason Leigh) tells him that he'll soon disappear. He begins dating a waitress from an airport coffee shop (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon), but through this nightmarish haze, terrible things start to happen. He meets a strange new worker at the factory (John Sharian) and witnesses horrible on the job accidents. He begins remembering things in jagged flashbacks and a mysterious "hangman" puzzle appears on a post-it on his refrigerator door. To say any more would kill the film's bleary suspense, but The Machinist is as gripping as Anderson's last effort, the atmospheric horror film Session 9. While not a great filmmaker, Anderson works successfully in various genres and has a sure touch with actors. Sure, we've seen this plot a few times before -- and at least once just this year -- but Anderson knows how to deal his cards out in the right order, making for an intelligent, well-crafted picture.

Note: It's pretty funny and not a bit ironic that Paramount Classics has chosen to release The Machinist -- with its skin and bones protagonist -- at Thanksgiving, when many Americans will be stuffing themselves to bursting.

DVD Details: Paramount's widescreen DVD (2005) comes with a director's commentary track, 8 deleted scenes, a making-of featurette (The Machinist: Breaking the Rules) and a trailer. The film comes with both 2.0 and 5.1 audio mixes, plus optional English subtitles.

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