The Machinist (2004)


Christian Bale stars as a factory machinist eaten away by paranoia as he suffers a year of insomnia. After an accident at work in which Bale is partly responsible for another man losing his arm, Bale suspects his coworkers are conspiring to get him fired. There’s a man he’s talked to that no one else has ever seen or heard of. There are mysterious post-it notes that keep appearing on his refrigerator. The only people he trusts are a call girl (Jennifer Jason Leigh) and an airport waitress (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón), but at a certain point, even they may not be who Bale thought they were.

The Machinist is a head-trip movie that plays with guilt and anxiety in ways that reminded me of both Jacob’s Ladder and Fight Club. Director Brad Anderson (Session 9) does a terrific job letting an unreliable narrator host our journey, and does Alfred Hitchcock proud in the department of ratcheting mystery and suspense. I normally complain about the trend of desaturated color palettes, but this is one film where it works to the story’s advantage. Roque Baños’ score is another highlight, frequently recalling the Hitchcockian soundtracks of Bernard Herrmann.

Bale turns in one of his best performances after losing a near-unsafe amount of weight to play the emaciated character, who weighs in at 121 pounds in one scene. Leigh, John Sharian, and Michael Ironside make the most of their supporting roles.

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