The Machinist (2004)

Rating: B+

Dir: Brad Anderson
Star: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, John Sharian

This is an undeniably effective, and creepy, work: Bale plays Trevor Reznick, who has been unable to sleep for a year, yet still continues to function. However, he is now teetering on the edge of sanity, with work, love and his existence now in peril as his insomnia takes its toll on his psyche. His relationships with a hooker (Leigh) and a waitress (Sánchez-Gijón) are problematic at best, and then there’s his new “friend”, Ivan (Sharian), who has a somewhat elusive nature. It’s a great performance by Bale, though the sheer, brutal physicality of the role – it’s well-known how the actor lost 60 lbs of weight for the part – is as much a distraction as a lure. I found myself wondering whether Bale ever felt the urge during shooting to pig out on a cheeseburger; it’s a far cry from the buff hero he played in, for example, Reign of Fire.

It’s also true to say that there’s something oddly soporific about a movie where the lead character is so clearly not sleeping. But when you get past that, there’s a lot to treasure, like the little things that alert you to the “truth decay” Reznick endures; the fact the time always seems to be 1:30, or the mysterious notes that appear on his fridge. These, as much as his wasting away, are signposts on his road to hell. I can’t say the ending came as much of a surprise, yet that didn’t seem to matter much. Unlike, perhaps, Fight Club, this actually made sense – you’ll probably want to watch the film twice, as the new knowledge would alter the experience significantly second time around. Smart, well-acted and disturbing.