12 Feb Movies I Missed #02: The Machinist, Brad Anderson (2004)
A LITTLE GUILT GOES A LONG WAY
Alright, full disclosure; I am in love with Christian Bale. It all started with American Psycho, then the Batman trilogy and then suddenly I was working my way through his entire filmography. Luckily, he’s starred in some pretty good shit so it was easy to justify my obsession with the man. Plus, it’s important to familiarise yourself with your future husband’s filmography, right? UGH, OK I’LL STOP.
As it currently stands, and to my dismay, I only have a few random Bale films left to watch. I’d been putting off The Machinist as I just didn’t like the look of it. True love always prevails though and a few weekends back when I ended up with a couple of quiet days to myself, I decided I’d finally give it a crack.
Directed by Brad Anderson, The Machinist is a psychological thriller that follows Trevor Reznik (Bale), a malnourished, troubled machinery worker suffering from insomnia and paranoia. Renowned for his dramatic transformations for film roles (most recently Vice) Bale lost 63 pounds to play Reznik, apparently achieved over four months through a diet of apples, tuna and black coffee.
Opening with Reznik half way through rolling up a body in a rug, there’s no certainly no slow build; we’re thrown right into a grim situation and our intrigue just won’t let us turn back. Turning to gaze out the apartment window, in this one prism-esque shot we can see four perspectives; the actual shot facing the window, Reznik’s gaunt, sickly face reflected in the glass, the city below him and the interior of the apartment behind him, reflected back. It’s a really beautiful shot in a very Lynchian way. It’s marred with an overpowering sense of bleakness and dread. And who doesn’t love that combo?
Multiple perspectives and disorientation forms a thread through the film. We see the world through Reznik’s perspective but are we to trust what we see? We learn that he hasn’t slept in a year and it’s at this point when his perspective really becomes questioned. Is all as it seems?
The colour is quite literally drained in every shot, enhancing the sense of disorientation and dread. The palette is comprised of black, greys, white and the palest khaki greens. Everything feels in a permanent state of shabbiness and disrepair from the machine shop to the clinical whites and greys of the bleak little airport diner Reznik chooses to drink coffee at after work each evening.
None of this sounds overly interesting, but fast-paced, action films have never really been my jam. I’m fascinated by character-centric stories and as we watch Reznik’s grim routine fall apart, we’re wondering what has brought him to this brink of insanity. I was also confronted with how much we rely on routine to keep us sane. The comfort of a workplace to while our hours away, to tire us out and keep us grounded. Once Reznik loses his job in the machine shop that’s when things really start to go up the left.
It’s impossible not to draw comparisons with Fight Club. However, I think that it lacks that stifling pretension I associate so strongly with Fight Club. The grit and edge we get in Fight Club is replaced with a more ardent and painful look through the eyes of wholly discombobulated, troubled man. And the weird, disconcerting score running throughout only enhances the discombobulation, teasing it out through playful instrumentals that contrast so strongly with the subject matter. Yet, in a weird way it works.
I read a few reviews on LetterBoxd that said the ending to this movie seemed pretty obvious. Viewing it through the lens of 2019 I could tell there was an impending twist but I certainly didn’t have it sussed out.
Movies I Missed is a weekly feature on the blog. Each week in 2019 I’m watching and covering a film I haven’t seen, preferably one my friends regularly criticise me for not having watched before.