Machinist (The)
R0 - United Kingdom - Tartan Video
Review written by and copyright: Noor Razzak (18th October 2005).
The Film

Iíve waited a long time to see The Machinist, I remember talking with a friend about the trailer over a year ago. Finally I got to view this film, but the first time I watched it I was very tired and nodded off in and out as the film progressed. This was not because of boredom but rather my own fatigue getting the better of me. Watching a film a about a character who canít sleep while nodding in and out of sleep is a rather bizarre experience I wouldnít recommend it, it messes with your head. The second time I viewed the film I was much more conscious and was pulled into the film for the full 98 minute ride.
The Machinist is not a new concept, the marketing guruís behind the filmís release have compared it to Fight Club or Memento although it certainly has elements from both those film itís a unique little character study of the effects of insomnia have on the human condition, body and mind. Amazingly actor Christian Bale lost 63 pounds to play the frail insomniac Trevor Reznik. A feat that was dangerously life threatening, only allowing himself a can of tuna and an apple a day Bale transformed himself into the tortured character as written by Scott Kosar.
Trevor Reznik is The Machinist a man who hasnít slept in over a year, whose insomnia has left him a broken frail human being. The effects of which have started to infiltrate his mind, he begins to see things that arenít there, people that donít exist but only in his mind. One day at the machine shop where he works a terrible accident leaves one employee without a hand, Trevor is to blame. His guilt and paranoia gets the better of him when he suddenly discovers cryptic notes left in his apartment. Unsure if someone is out for revenge or his mind playing tricks Reznik desperately tries to save his sanity while uncovering the truth behind a past that haunts him, thatís linked to his condition.
The Machinist feels like a modern day Alfred Hitchcock film, director Brad Anderson calls it a tragic physiological drama with influences from Hitchcock and Polanski. The Machinist is a disturbing character study of a man confronted by his own guilty conscious, and the rediscovery of his dirty secret that has lost itself in his mind as a result of his guilt ladened insomnia. Baleís performance is haunting and disturbing, heís truly become the character inside and out torturing himself in order to achieve the mindset of Trevor. Heís able to evoke shock, sympathy and real concern from the viewer that engages you in the filmís narrative. Equally interesting are the supporting players that include Michael Ironside as his co-worker Miller who loses his hand in the accident and Jennifer Jason Leigh as Stevie a local prostitute (Surprise, surprise has this woman been type-cast or what, it seems like every movie that has Leigh in it she plays a whore / slut type character) Trevor frequents. Leighís character is in a way Trevorís anchor in reality, the relationship is interestingly complex yet, Stevie appears to be the only person that can look past Trevorís horrid condition. Aided by their onscreen chemistry, the scenes with these characters are among the most interesting voyeuristically to watch.
Performance-wise this film is superb, story-wise itís a little thin. The Machinist feels like a short film padded out to feature length with a twist at the end that can be seen coming miles away. Although director Anderson states in his commentary that the film doesnít rely on the twist so much but the path that leads Trevor to it, there are moments in this film that are often weird and leave you feeling somewhat like Trevor at times and that are all part of this sick journey. Anderson made the right decision in giving the film a muted, drab tone. The best way to describe is that the film looks like how Trevor must feel, Anderson and cinematographer Xavi Gimťnez captured the filmís feel perfectly.
The Machinist isnít for everyone, itís often slow, frustrating and leaves you feeling tired. If you enjoy a good psychological mind f*** then give this film a shot, as itís got some great performances and the photography is worth the price of admission. If youíre looking for something happy, then move along this oneís not for you.

Video

Presented in the filmís original theatrical ratio of 2.35:1, this anamorphic transfer is good, but could have been much better. The transfer reflects the overall washout look of the film very accurately. The film is very drab looking and the colours represented in the transfer are a testament to that. Sharpness is generally very good, blacks are bold and shadow detail is present as there are many scenes in the film that take place in the dark factory. There are a few problems with the transfer most noticeably are the compression artifacts that pop up throughout the film. I noticed this quite a lot and was rather annoyed by it, I also detected edge enhancement in some scenes. For a film this recent youíd expect a perfect transfer with little to no flaws however this transfer isnít the best it could have been.

Audio

Tartan has included no loess than three soundtracks to choose from, all in English the first is a DTS 5.1 soundtrack, the other two varieties come in Dolby Digital 5.1 and a 2.0 Surround mix. For the purposes of the review I chose to view the film with its DTS track. As expected dialogue is exceptionally clear and distortion free, the sound is crisp and well rendered here. This film is mainly a dialogue and score focused film so surrounds arenít entirely active, however it is a very atmospheric soundtrack which, is subtlety engaging. The Hitchcockian score is mixed well within the 5.1 sound space and adds a layered creepiness to the film. Overall this DTS soundtrack serves the film well.
Unfortunately this DVD does not include any subtitles.

Extras

The first extra we have is the feature-length audio commentary by the director Brad Anderson. Not entirely screen specific however Anderson covers a lot of material here. It deals largely with the script and the difficulty in securing financing for such a bleak story, as well as casting Bale and his amazing transformation into the Trevor Reznik character. Anderson also discusses the challenges of shooting in Spain and making Bacelona look like an American metropolis. Anderson also touches on his influences, comments on the cast, cinematography, the themes of the film and other interesting bits of information.

Following that is the UK Exclusive Interview with Brad Anderson that runs for 25 minutes 24 seconds. The interview generally covers about the same topics that are covered in the commentary such as the bleak script and the trouble with getting money to make the film, he also talks more in-depth about the Hitchcockian elements the film appears to have, as well as the influence Roman Polanski has on him and also about directing the film while he was on a stretcher after an accident.

Making The Machinist is a featurette that runs for 25 minutes 20 seconds, this is similar to an EPK featurette however crams a bit more information in here than just your average talking head stuff, behind-the-scenes clips and cast and crew patting each otherís back about doing such a great job. This piece goes into a little bit more detail about shooting the film, especially having to transform Barcelona into looking like a US city.

A series of 8 deleted scenes are next and they include:
- Trevor visits mysterious grave running for 2 minutes 32 seconds.
- Alternate intersection crosscut with burning paper runs for 1 minute 29 seconds.
- Pensive Trevor runs for 1 minute 3 seconds.
- Stevie's mysterious 'John' runs for 2 minutes 12 seconds.
- Alternate chasing ending runs for 43 seconds.
- Trevor tries to skip town runs for 43 seconds and includes an optional commentary by director Brad Anderson about why the scene was cut.
- Trevor confronts mother at cemetery runs for 1 minute 44 seconds and includes an optional commentary by director Brad Anderson about why the scene was cut.
- Alternate version of holding cell runs for 1 minute.

Also on the disc are a series of bonus trailers for Mysterious Skin that runs for 2 minutes 4 seconds, Mean Creek which runs for 2 minutes 32 seconds, Sliver City that runs for 2 minutes 39 seconds and Dig! that runs for 2 minutes 11 seconds.

Rounding out the extras is a booklet that features an essay from Anwar Brett.

Overall

The Machinist is an interesting character study thatís physiologically charged, Baleís performance is the reason why you should see this movie; the film does suffer from a weak script and a generally feeling of fatigue after viewing. The Tartan DVD presents the film with an average transfer, a decent DTS surround track and a handful of interesting extras which, however, overlap on a few topics.

The Film: B- Video: B- Audio: A Extras: B Overall: B

 


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