I hate reviewing films like The Machinist; critiquing this movie is like treading through a literary minefield in which every misstep threatens to blow the film’s twist. I remember when, following the release of The Sixth Sense, a handful of critics stumbled and alluded to the Bruce Willis’ character’s decidedly non-corporeal state, essentially killing that one-trick pony for anyone able to “read between the lines”. While The Machinist’s denouement isn’t quite as shocking, it is worth protecting, as the overall effect of the film somewhat hinges on it.
Christian Bale, slimmed down to literally skin and bone, stars as Trevor Reznik, a ghost of a man who hasn’t slept in a year, and whose life has become something of a waking nightmare. Trevor’s friends and co-workers have distanced themselves from the increasingly eccentric machinist, and the only people he has any meaningful connection to are the ones whose company he pays for, including a prostitute named Stevie (Leigh), and an airport coffee shop waitress, Marie (Sanchez-Gijon). Trevor splits his time between these women, each of whom fulfills a specific need. With Stevie, the need is an obvious one; sex, comfort, and the feel of a warm body next to his own. However with Marie, the need is a bit of a mystery. He sees something in this beautiful waitress who logs long, late hours at the desolate airport. He listens to the stories of her son, and the hardships of single motherhood. He tips her more than he should, and drives out of his way to be there night after night, but he’s not sure why.
The only thing Trevor is sure of is the fact that Ivan, the new chrome-domed, toes-for-thumbs welder is out to get him, and someone put him up to it. The guys at work, they pretend they don’t know Ivan, but Trevor knows better; after all, it was Trevor’s negligence that lead to Miller (Ironside) losing his arm, and the guys at the factory, they won’t forget that. They won’t be happy until Trevor loses his job, or worse. And, with every bad thing that happens to him, Trevor sees Ivan, parked down the road in his shiny red muscle car, watching, waiting, and inviting Trevor to follow.
But what will happen when he finally catches up to him?
Thick with tension and an ugly and oppressive atmosphere, The Machinist is an uncomfortable to watch, not because it’s particularly disturbing (although Bale’s emaciated physique is a truly horrific sight) or violent, but simply because you can’t bear to see what happens next. Bale plays Reznik with a sort of goofy quasi-charm, making him an affable, clumsy, and mildly feeble protagonist. It’s this vulnerable quality that helps us identify with the character, making him a very real player in an increasingly surreal game. And, while the conclusion doesn’t quite live up to the build-up, it is Bale’s powerful performance that makes the trip more than worthwhile.
The Machinist is a visually scrumptious film, and, because of that, my anticipation for this title was high! Paramount does not disappoint, delivering the film in a stunning 1080p print that captures Xavi Giménez' lush cinematography wonderfully. The film is a patchwork of greens and faded blues, industrial grays and blacks, with key elements popping out in vivid colors. This makes for an image that truly pops with almost three-dimensional depth. It's an exemplary transfer, and Paramount is to be applauded for taking such care with a back catalog release.
The 5.1 Dolby TrueHD soundtrack oozes atmosphere and tension in everything from Roque Baños creepy, spartan soundtrack to the hum and crunch of the machinery that make up Reznik's world. The hushed dialogue is crisp and clear, bass response ranges from quietly ominous jarring and explosive, while nifty discrete surround effects envelop the listener, further drawing them into this meticulously crafted and surreal universe.
Paramount offers up a few surprises here, as, in addition to all of the supplements from the DVD release, they include two brand new HD featurettes!
First up is an enjoyable feature commentary by Brad Anderson in which the director points out a lot of the film's subtleties - a few of which I admittedly missed the first time through - and offers up a few behind-the-scenes tidbits. He also goes into great deal about the making of the film, from inception, to the final shot. It's a very comprehensive and fast moving commentary, and one fans will relish.
Manifesting the Machinist (HD) is a 23 minute look at the film from the scripting perspective, casting, and performances, and features interviews with Bale, Leigh, and other cast and crew.
The Machinist - Hiding in Plain Sight (HD) focuses on the imagery and symbolism prevalent throughout the film. Much like Anderson's commentary, this feature had me going back through the film to spot all the stuff I'd missed!!
The Machinist - Breaking all the Rules (SD) is a fairly in-depth making-of featurette that sports more interviews and behind-the-scenes footage.
Rounding out the goodies are deleted scenes (SD) and the film's theatrical trailer (also in SD, which is surprising given that most catalog titles boast an HD trailer as their sole HD extra).
It's an excellent collection of extras for an excellent film!
The Machinist makes a fantastic transition to Blu-ray. This is a film that is as dependent on visual cues as it is on its screenplay. Anderson paints Reznik’s world in washed-out greens, grays, silvers, and blacks, with a sky that always seems to hint at a coming storm. It's a world where the only vibrant colors are reserved for images meant to trigger an emotional response; the angry red of Ivan’s car, the warm yellow glow of Stevie’s bed. It's a film filled with symbolism that, when the mystery is revealed, will have many watching the film again to make sense of it all. Featuring a killer transfer, awesome audio, and a must-have set of extras, The Machinist is definitely one worth adding to your collection!