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Paramount Studios presents
Stevie: Don't worry about it, honey. Everyone gets insomnia now and then.
DVD ReviewIn The Machinist, Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) looks very much like a concentration camp survivor, quite literally a rail-thin, cadaverous 110lb. skeleton plagued by what he refers to as a year-long case of insomnia. He visits a prostitute (Jennifer Jason Leigh) regularly, works in a dingy machine shop where his increasingly gaunt appearance and actions have begun to affect his performance and the safety of others, and he spends his nights scrubbing his bathroom floor with bleach and a toothbrush or drinking coffee at an airport diner under the kind gaze of a waitress (Aitana Sanchez-Gijon). Things really go to hell when strange Post-It notes start appearing in his grubby apartment after an encounter with a mysterious bald man named Ivan (John Sharian), and Reznik's insomnia is dramatically compounded by an escalating case of intense paranoia and confusion.
The story itself is an effectively dark thriller, with Anderson weaving the intricacies of Scott Kosar's script into an intentionally off-balance narrative layered with secrets and clues, but the real stunner is Bale himself. His performance is slippery and moves ever downhill as his character's mental condition deteriorates to the point where he throws himself in front of a car in order to convince police he has been the victim of a hit-and-run accident.
But in order to personify Kosar's vision of a man wasting away, the actor lost a startling 63 lbs., dropping one-third of his total body weight to get down to the skin-and-bones 110 he carries in the film. The first moments when we get a good look at Bale's troubled Trevor Reznik, he is hunched over a bathroom sink, and his spine protrudes like that of a stegosaurus, while his collarbone juts out like unnaturally as well. Combine this with Bale's sunken facial features, and the effect is completely haunting, making this a personal modification that easily eclipses De Niro's bulk up job in Raging Bull.
Jennifer Jason Leigh and Aitana Sanchez-Gijon play the polar opposites of the women in Reznik's life, a heart-of-gold hooker and a single mom waitress, both of whom apparently see something much deeper inside. We've all seen some variation of the good whore character before, but Jennifer Jason Leigh does a fine job with what could have just been a caricature; her big moment late in the film allows her character to believably and naturally unload her hopes and dreams on Reznik as she fixes him breakfast. It's a small moment, but it really accents her character beyond the realm of the one-note. Sanchez-Gijon plays it simple and clean, a pleasant waitress somehow attracted to Reznik to the point of inviting him to spend a day at an amusement park with her and her young son, building to one of the stranger moments in The Machinist, involving a progressively more demented funhouse ride.
From the opening sequence it is clear that Anderson has constructed his film to be one of those in which secret meanings hide in nearly every scene—made even more clear after listening to the accompanying commentary track. The eventual plot reveals are extremely satisfying and clever (so essential to a story like this), but they almost pale next to the visage of Bale as a man about to vanish into nothingness.
Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A
Image Transfer Review: The Machinist comes from Paramount in a very clean and stylized 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, one that is very mechanical and bleached, layered in cold greens and blues. There is a decided absence of direct color—save for intentional bursts of red—and the film has an intentionally high-contrast look, with the use of light and dark areas used to create a strong visual that the transfer reproduces accurately.
Image Transfer Grade: A-
Audio Transfer Review: The two audio choices are both in English, and consist of surround mixes in either 5.1 Dolby Digital or 2.0. The 5.1 track offers the most atmosphere, though the rear channels could have been used more to hammer home the mood that Brad Anderson tries to convey. Dialogue, most of it mumbly and somber, sounds clear at all times, and there is some directional movement with regard to things like cars or machine sounds.
Audio Transfer Grade: B+
Disc ExtrasStatic menu
Scene Access with 15 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
4 Other Trailer(s) featuring Mean Creek, Enduring Love, Suspect Zero, Schultze Gets The Blues
8 Deleted Scenes
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Brad Anderson
Extras Review: As jaded as I am, director Brad Anderson provides a solid commentary track, and in it he discusses shooting in Barcelona, the trouble with getting any U.S. financing, Bales' weight loss and the production design used to give the film an "alienated quality." Most importantly, at least for me, is where Anderson points out little touches that I missed on the first viewing, and how there were many intentionally subtle visuals sprinkled throughout the film. Anderson keeps his input moving at a steady clip, avoiding simply describing the scenes.
The Machinist: Breaking All the Rules (25m:18s) is a better-than-most feature on the making of the film, with behind-the-scenes footage and comments from all of the principals, including writer Scott Kosar. There are eight Deleted Scenes (09m:50s), two of which are available with an optional Brad Anderson commentary. Three of the cut scenes offer more clarity to certain moments in the film, but it is almost too much, and they are worth a look, cutting them appears to have been a wise move.
In addition to some trailers, the disc is cut into 15 chapters, with optional English subtitles.
Extras Grade: B+
Final CommentsBrad Anderson's creepy thriller is really enhanced by the unbelievable physical transformation of Christian Bale into a 110lb. "walking skeleton" with a severe case of insomnia. While all the visual touches and intentional color bleaching give Anderson's film a very bleak veneer, it is Bale who really lifts the narrative to the next level by shuffling through it all like a man about to literally waste away to nothing.
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