Dark, unsettling film noir about young factory worker Trevor Reznik (sounding a bit like Nine Inch Nails frontman Trent Reznor, no?), who, horrifyingly emaciated and not having slept for a full year (nor eaten, one would assume), starts communicating with a dangerous-looking stranger whose actual existence is questionable.
Unlike other "What's the secret?" movies, while The Machinist lets on that all the weirdness and mystery will add up to the inevitable story twist at the end, at least one of the questions isn't "Is Trevor sane or not?" The film makes it pretty clear early on that this mysterious "Ivan" character he keeps seeing is a figment of his imagination. So the main question isn't whether Trevor is crazy, but how crazy he is – and what's making him so crazy.
It's always a risk, this kind of plot, because every audience member knows that he or she will have to sit through an hour and a half of red herrings, fake-outs, subtle clues, and glaring instances of something's-just-not-right, in order to be rewarded with a conclusion that wraps everything up. And if that conclusion isn't strong or unpredictable enough, it ruins the whole picture.
Without giving anything away, The Machinist's conclusion did work for me. It brought every little odd detail of the film together, and although it was nothing major like the end of the world, it worked within the intimacy of the story: this really is the inner turmoil of one once-regular guy.
Much has already been made of star Christian Bale's dramatic weight loss, and though one might write it off as gimmicky, his skeletal appearance is absolutely the central part of his performance: he looks like a death camp victim, and it's almost unbearable to even look at him. But this all adds to the creepy tone of the film (which, though written by American Scott Kosar and directed by American Brad Anderson, and with an English-speaking cast of mostly Americans, was filmed in Spain by an entirely Spanish crew). So too does Xavi Giménez's deep blue cinematography (he shot the similarly dark Spanish thriller Intacto, one of my favorites from recent years) and Roque Baños's rich, haunting, Vertigo-inspired score (complete with Theremin!), which may be the best score I've heard all year.
The Machinist is an icy cold horror-drama, definitely not for all tastes, but I do not doubt that it will soon engender a cult following. I for one was very impressed.