Neil Young’s Film Lounge – The Machinist
Spain 2004 : Brad ANDERSON : 102 mins
The most remarkable feature of stylish B-movie psychological chiller The Machinist is the genuinely horrifying weight-loss endured by its leading man Christian Bale. Having bulked up for the gym-pumped role of Patrick Bateman in American Psycho a few years back, the Welsh actor has now virtually turned himself into a walking bag of bones as Trevor Reznik, a severely insomniac factory-worker whose chronic sleep deprivation leads to increasingly terrifying hallucinations. As Trevor starts to doubt his sanity, he finds himself drawn into what seems to be some kind of complicated murder-plot revolving around the sinister Ivan (John Sharian). Feeling himself sliding into an abyss of paranoia, Trevor confides his fears to sympathetic hooker Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and friendly waitress Marie (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon). But who can be trusted? And who, if anyone, is what is they seem?
Apart from one unexpectedly larkish ghost-train sequence (which happens to be the most striking, imaginative and memorable in the whole picture) The Machinist is a somewhat dour experience, an all-too-effective journey into a severely troubled mind. It works best as a character-study of the tormented Trevor – Scott Kosar’s script is somewhat less effective in terms of the nuts-and-bolts mechanics of the twist-film genre, and attentive viewers will probably work out most of what’s going on quite early in the game
But while the predictable final revelations may not break any new ground, Anderson nevertheless knows how to construct a suspenseful narrative. He’s assembled a remarkable cast for what is really quite pulpy, small-scale material: freakish-looking unknown Sharian more than holds his own in his numerous scenes with the painfully hollowed-out Bale, while Leigh and veterans Michael Ironside and Anna Massey inject a welcome degree of classy professionalism. Backed up by a suitably Hitchcockian score by Raque Banos, cinematographer Xavi Gimenez creates a night-clammy backdrop of cobalt blues and steely greys – an ominously off-kilter world whose strangeness is partly explained by the fact that this very dark-looking US-set film was, incredibly, shot in the suburbs of sunny Barcelona.
3rd October, 2004
(seen 21st August : UGC Edinburgh : press show – Edinburgh Film Festival)
click HERE for our full coverage of the 2004 Edinburgh Film Festival
by Neil Young