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The Machinist (aka El Maquinista) - Blu-ray DVD / drama DVD / mystery and suspense DVD / thriller DVD review
(aka El Maquinista)
Rated R by the Motion Picture Association of America curledupdvd.com rating: 4 1/2 stars
Featuring: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, John Sharian
Director: Brad Anderson Studio: Paramount
DVD release: 19 May 2009 Runtime: 101 min.
(1 disc)
Format: AC-3, Color, Dolby, Dubbed, Subtitled, Widescreen, Blu-ray
DVD features: 1080p High Definition, Aspect ratio 2.35:1, Audio tracks (Dolby TrueHD 5.1 Surround - English, French, Spanish), Subtitles (English SDH, English, Spanish, French, Portugese), Audio commentary (dir. Brad Anderson), Manifesting the Machinist, The Machinist: Hiding in Plain Sight, The Machinist: Breaking the Rules, Deleted scenes, Theatrical trailer

"That's obviously not Christian Bale."
I actually said that to the person I was viewing this film with during the opening few minutes. The frighteningly gaunt, emaciated figure with the sunken face couldn't possibly be the same actor who played Batman. It wasn't until the character looked into a mirror that I realized, shockingly, that it was Bale.

Christian Bale lost more than 60 pounds to play Trevor Reznik, the haunted protagonist of this disturbing but unforgettable and borderline brilliant psychological thriller. If his initial appearance is meant to shock and disturb, it works - you fear for the character's health (indeed, you might fear for Bale's health). There is a method to his madness - this is a man who is haunted by something: he is literally wasting away, as if wanting to disappear.

Trevor is an insomniac ("I haven't slept in a year.") It seems his only means of salvation are the relationships he has with two disparate women: Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a hooker who cares for him (and pointedly tells him that if he were any thinner, he wouldn't exist), and Marie (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon) a waitress in an airport coffee shop (Marie is the key relationship; more on that later).

Trevor works as a machinist at one of those grimy, industrial hellholes that look almost like an H.R. Geiger illustration. He has few friends there; most of his co-workers don't like him and even seem a bit wary of him. The one co-worker who seems nicest to him is the shop veteran Miller (Michael Ironside). This relationship is lost, however, when a distracted Trevor causes a gruesome accident that results in Miller losing his left arm.

The cause of the distraction is Ivan (John Sharian), a new co-worker at the plant. Ivan is truly a fearsome presence, somewhat reminiscent of Brando's Col. Kurtz from Apocalypse Now. He has a rather horrible smile as well as a mangled left hand from a previous shop accident. Most disturbingly, none of Trevor's co-workers seem to be aware of Ivan's existence in the shop. Who is he?

Trying to solve the mystery of Ivan is the catalyst for Trevor's nightmarishly fascinating journey. Throughout the film, Trevor picks up many pieces of a seemingly infinite puzzle. How do they fit together? Among the clues to look for:
  • What is the meaning of that odd water tower?
  • What is the meaning of the picture of Ivan holding a fish with another co-worker (one who claims he has never met Ivan)?
  • Who is putting the Post-It notes with the Hangman word game on them on Trevor's fridge?
  • Why do all the clocks seem to be stuck at 1:30?
  • Why is Trevor continually coming to forks in the road?
  • Why does Maria care for him so much, to the point that she invites Trevor to go with her and her son to an amusement park?
  • What is the meaning of the truly hellish funhouse ride Trevor takes with Maria's son (perhaps the pivotal scene in the movie)?
A movie like The Machinist, particularly when it is well made, is easily re-watchable. There are clues peppered throughout the movie as to what is actually happening, and a second viewing is fun just to look for clues (hidden both in the visuals and the dialogue). Also important: the resolution of the mystery does not answer all the questions but still makes sense and is fitting. It has been leading the audience to this resolution all along, and it is thankfully not a forced ending like too many thrillers.

I dare not give away too much more - this is a terrific thriller that one should experience on your own without too much firsthand knowledge. The one aspect I will offer, the key that makes it work: everything we see is the reality of one man, a man who hasn't slept and is haunted by something he cannot explain. When Trevor says "I just want to sleep," we truly understand why.

Blu-Ray features:
The picture and sound are crystal clear. Paramount took care with this print.
  • Audio commentary with Director Anderson
  • Deleted scenes
  • Trailer
  • Two making-of features
  • The Machinist: Hiding in Plain Sight, which gives a step-by-step account of some key clues in the movie (warning: do NOT watch first if you haven't seen the movie yet!)
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reviewed by Trent Daniel
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