Christian Bale’s performance as Trevor Reznik in director Brad Anderson’s “The Machinist” (2004) is nothing short of spectacular. Bale, proving to be more than just another Hollywood action star, shows the depth of his acting talent in this enticing movie, to play the part in which he lost 40lbs.
Trevor Reznik, an industrial worker plagued with insomnia for over a year, begins to fall deep into an abyss of delusion, as nonsensical situations play out in his daily life. On the crossroads of looking for answers to his insanity while trying to avoid the possible outcome of being beaten by his year-long alcohol and cigarette binge, tied with no sleep, the sickly looking Reznik is a powerful, yet pitiful character. Bale captures the role perfectly, leaving the viewer lost in the inner-conflicts and highly imaginative scenarios Reznik faces.
Besides Bale’s incredible portrayal of Reznik, “The Machinist” is well written, well shot, and well-directed. The scenario perfectly gives the viewer butterflies in the stomach with its dark vibes, eerie silences, and bad weather, all of which hit at the perfect times in the industrial town where the action takes place. With a setting and plot, more or less, uncomfortable, the characters in the film leave you questioning their importance, their meaning, and whether or not they exist or are just a part of Reznik’s repressed delusions.
Nevertheless, the greatest part about this film is its portrayal of insanity, which is something that several other films try to depict and fail miserably. It lacks pretentiousness, and makes no subtle attempts at being “artsy.” Instead, this film doesn’t “try,” which is a mistake many other psychological thrillers have done in the past, “The Machinist” “does.” And what it does is slowly, steadily, and very appropriately letting the realities and sanity slip away. The film doesn’t jump at you with an epic twist of an ending that “the whole thing was in his head the whole time,” as many other films have done. Instead, it leaves you with Reznik, a sickly yet relatable working class man, as his reality becomes more like a funhouse, making the insanity in itself questionable. It should be said that watching Reznik fall to the delusions is as painful as watching a small animal die in agony. You witness that insanity is not something that only happens to the typical, high-end, impressive character, much like Bale’s role as Patrick Bateman in “American Psycho,” but to just about anyone.
The most grievous part about the falling of the character is how undeniably eerie the whole situation is. The plot is filled with twists and turns through tunnels that can leave even the most intelligent movie fan dumbfounded as to the truth of the situation. In this movie, everything is questionable, nothing is set in stone, and to get the full effect, it should most definitely be watched more than once.
All in all, “The Machinist” was underrated and underappreciated for its time. Although Bale was only on the verge of Hollywood stardom, as it did come out previous to his groundbreaking Batman role in Christopher Nolan’s franchise, he was incredible in this film. As a result, “The Machinist” is a definite must see.