Saturday, August 27, 2005

Wide Awake, It's Mourning

In Brad Anderson's The Machinist (available to buy or rent from Tartan Video), Christian Bale is Trevor Reznick, a factory worker who hasn't slept for a year and is so thin if he ever lost more weight he'd 'disappear'. His workmates think he's a nut whose lack of concentration puts at risk their life and limb, and his romantic life solely consists of a local hooker (Jenny Jason Leigh, whose breasts are the latest development in the 80s revival) and a comely Mexican waitress who may or may not be what she seems. Common sense would suggest reflecting on what is causing his insomnia, but Reznor is more preoccupied by a bald, lascivious arc welder whom only he sees, and finding out who's been leaving on the fridge door half-finished hangman games which act as breaking noose flashes on his subconscious mind.

The Machinist exists in the same 'living nightmare' twilight zone as films like Jacob's Ladder; Memento and Fight Club, with an appeallingly gritty milieu and steel-blue visuals ratcheting up the atmospherics. Bale brilliantly nails down his character's bug-eyed desperation, while Jennifer Jason Leigh and Michael Ironside turn in well-judged performances that require more subtle shades to keep the audience intrigued.

People seem divided over the denouement, some finding it a little blah and mundane, while others see it as unusually coherent and moving in comparison to some of the slam-dunk 'twist'endings to which we've become accustomed. But whatever your feelings about the climax, for the most part you will find The Machinist a customised piece of cutting-edge entertainment which pushes all the right buttons.


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