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 The Machinist
 Critic's Rating
 Date Posted
   18th October, 2005
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Cast: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-
Director: Brad Anderson

What is the weight of guilt? Can it crush your life, overwhelm your mind and destroy the people you care about? Trevor Reznik in "The Machinist" is played by Christian Bale who lost over 60 pounds for this role. Bale's diet consisted of one can of tuna and an apple per day. His weight loss is said to be a record for any actor for a film role. He since gained the weight back for his role in "Batman Begins." There are two reasons why I am telling you this. First, and quite obviously, this is an astonishing feat for any actor, a true testament of Bale's dedication to his art. And Bale fulfils this staggering achievement by delivering a brilliant, moving performance. The second reason why I tell you this is for you to understand that Bale risked his personal safety because he believed in this film. He was convinced that "The Machinist" is worth that risk, and therefore you too should begin to believe in this powerful, unflinching character study about a man under unimaginable duress.

We are introduced to Trent Reznik (Christian Bale) in the first frame of the film. He is rolling a dead body into a carpet; he then proceeds to throw it into the icy-cold waters of a river. Now that the film has our attention we learn through an extended flashback (that lasts till the film's conclusion) that he works as a lathe-operator at a small machine shop. Reznik keeps to himself; he cleans his toilet ceramic with a tootbrush and he drives out of his way to have coffee at the same airport restaurant for a year. This is his routine. Reznik suffers from extreme fatigue because he will not or cannot sleep. His frail frame literally a bag of bones betrays what appears as months of self-inflicted torture. Reznik's co-workers remind him that he "used to be alright." Then one day he meets a fellow worker called Ivan (John Sharian) in the company parking lot. Ivan is Reznik's exact opposite: A beefy, sinister looking man who we guess likes hurting people. There is a bad accident at work and Reznik's colleague, Miller (Michael Ironside), loses an arm because of him. Reznik was provoked by Ivan. But no one else has seen Ivan or even knows of him. Is Reznik going insane? For me to continue with the plot would be pointless because the film is built around careful characterisation. The story's payoff is in the unveiling of the circumstances surrounding Reznik's condition. The film's power lies in this secret.

"The Machinist" is a hard-hitting psychological drama that I can also describe as a horror film. Director Brad Anderson is very skilled at building mood and atmosphere. This is his third film. His second film "Session 9" is highly underrated; it showcased Anderson's sublime talent of transforming genre conventions into something that can be intellectually provocative. In "The Machinist" he works from Scott Kosar's great screenplay to create a nightmare world whose inhabitants, our film's characters, are bereft of love and happiness. The protanganist, our hero, Trent Reznik, cannot sleep. But we know that insomnia is but a small symptom of a deep-rooted hurt that Reznik is unable heal. The film sets up the story's conclusion by bringing us back to where we started Reznik rolling the dead body down the river. By this time we will have come to the understanding that the act in itself has meaning, a profound realisation. The dead man or how he died is beside the point. - Adnan Khan

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