Trevor Reznik is a machinist in a factory. An extreme case of insomnia has led to him not sleeping in a year, and his body withering away to almost nothing. He has an obsessive compulsion to write himself reminder notes and keep track of his dwindling weight, both scribbled on yellow stickies in his apartment. The only person he lets into his life in an emotional sense is Stevie, a prostitute, although he has an infatuation with Maria, a single mother waitress working in an airport diner. His co-workers don't associate with and mistrust him because of not knowing what is going on in his life that has led to his emaciated physical appearance. A workplace incident further alienates him with his coworkers, and in conjunction with some unfamiliar pieces of paper he finds in his apartment, Trevor believes that someone or some people - probably one or some of his coworkers - are out to get him, using a phantom employee named Ivan as their front. As Trevor goes on a search for evidence as to... Written by
THE MACHINIST is a mesmerizing film, a journey through the interstices of a mind deprived of sleep, of nourishment, and a mind that struggles to untangle the chaos of a past of guilt and terror. And the journey is terrifying.
When the film opens we meet Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) or at least the emaciated, tortured remains of a man who hasn't slept for a year. We don't know why this worker in a machine factory is in such condition: the story unwinds slowly so that by the end we accompany Reznik in his shock to his moment of discovery. It is the getting there that is the tough beauty of this amazingly rich film as written by Scott Kosar and directed by Brad Anderson.
The setting is always dark as though the state of mind is a nightmare. Reznik's meager existence is challenged when he is involved in an industrial accident in which a fellow worker Miller (Michael Ironside) loses an arm. Shocked by the accident (for which Reznik feels responsible) the various few people in his life seem supportive: a hooker named Stevie (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a waitress in an airport all night diner Marie (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón), and an ambiguous bald man Ivan (John Sharian) who appears to Reznik in strange ways.
Reznik's mind slowly disintegrates into paranoid delusions, the only way he can hold his life together is by post-its reminding him first of his documented progressive weight loss, then of his needs, then of his secret mystery. To say more would be a great disservice to the extraordinary plot.
Christian Bale delivers one of the most committed performances on film. He not only physically inhabits Reznik with his skeletal appearance, he also mentally nurtures all the nuances of fear, pain, pleasure and madness that build as his character's reason for a year of insomnia is revealed at the very end. We stand in suspense with him and his fall is as powerful as any Dante ever devised. The entire cast is superb but special kudos go to Jennifer Jason Leigh who finally has a role that allows her to demonstrate the spectrum of skill she possesses as an actress. Not an easy film, this, but a very important one. Highly recommended - but not to see alone! Grady Harp
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