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HTF REVIEW: The Machinist (Recommended)

Discussion in 'DVD' started by Scott Kimball, Jun 6, 2005.

  1. Scott Kimball

    Scott Kimball Screenwriter

    May 8, 2000
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    The Machinist

    Studio: Paramount Classics

    Year: 2004

    Rated: R

    Length: 101 Minutes

    Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1, Anamorphic

    Audio: Dolby Digital English 5.1, English 2.0

    Subtitles: English

    Closed Captioned

    Special Features: Featurette, Deleted Scenes, Director Commentary

    Estimated Street Price, $25 or less, USD

    Release Date: June 7, 2005

    The Film
    The Machinist is a dark mystery that doesn’t really aim to solve a crime so much as discover a character’s state of being.

    Christian Bale has remarkably transformed himself into a human skeleton for the leading role, losing over 60 pounds to play the part of Trevor Reznik, a machinist by trade who has suffered from insomnia for over a year, and has lost not only a third of his physical self, but a good portion of his sanity from the strange illness. Like Christopher Nolan’s Memento, the plot revolves around the main character’s search for self. The weight loss provides a disturbingly tangible frame of reference for the desperation of the character, and his fragile state of mind.

    The story by Scott Kosar is deeply disturbing, and heavily influenced by Kafka and Dostoevsky - there are, in fact, several references to Dostoevsky in the film - some obvious and some not so obvious. Elaborating further may only serve to reveal too much of the plot, which has some serious reveals toward the end of the film. It is reminiscent, in some ways, of M. Night Shyamalan’s work, or of Adrian Lyne’s Jacob’s Ladder (which itself is a riff of Ambrose Bierce’s An Occurrence at Owl’s Creek Bridge).

    Imagery is of prime importance to the film’s unfolding story. When the answers to the mystery are revealed, you can go back in your mind (or search through the scenes on the DVD) and find double meanings in almost every major scene. The pallid color palette subtly steers your focus to objects of interest, while the sound design often reveals things that can’t be discerned by the visuals alone.

    There are obvious Hitchcock influences in this well crafted, layered film as well. Director Brad Anderson deftly borrows from the masters and manages to make a film that is wholly original, yet eerily familiar and decidedly and uncomfortably disturbing.

    I’ve been intentionally vague with the plot, as this film would be easily spoiled by divulging too much. It must be experienced, not described.

    The Machinist is an excellent film with a knockout performance by Bale, but the film is decidedly not for all tastes. I was riveted. Those with a taste for darker fare will definitely enjoy this.

    Sight and Sound
    The film is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. The stark, high contrast, almost monochromatic photography is nicely captured on the DVD. The saturation (or lack thereof) and contrast are presented as stylistically intended. Black levels are solid, with generally good detail in the shadows.

    The source print is clean, with only a few minor imperfections. The transferred image is sharp and detailed with only occasional traces of haloing. There are no other obvious artifacts.

    The Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack delivers a nicely rendered soundstage, with good panning and use of surrounds. Frequency response is good. Occasionally, a mild hiss can be heard, but it seems likely to be on the source recording.

    Commentary by Director Brad Anderson
    With a film like The Machinist, there is a lot of fertile ground for commentary - and Brad Anderson delivers. Anderson talks about many things: Christian Bale’s weight loss, the psychology of the colors and lighting used in the film, the music, the difficulties in Americanizing the streets of Barcelona (where the film was shot), etc. Importantly, the small cues about what is really going on are discussed - many of which people may not catch in the first or second viewing. The influence of Kafka and Dostevsky on the film is also discussed.

    These special features are not anamorphically enhanced.

    The Machinist: Breaking the Rules (25:18)
    Unusual in its construction, this featurette is essentially a whole lot of wild footage from the days spent shooting the film, with brief sound bites from director Brad Anderson, stars Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and others, edited in. Some sound bites are accompanied by on-set video of the interview, others are voice over wild video. This isn’t a technically deep featurette, but it is an interesting overview of the 40 day shoot.

    Deleted Scenes
    8 deleted and alternate scenes from the film are collected here, totaling almost 10 minutes. A director’s commentary would have been nice on these, to give insight into the reasons for the cuts. Unfortunately, one is not included. Some of the cut scenes seem to give away too much information... they may have spoiled the ending for some if left intact.

    Theatrical Trailer (2:32)


    Mean Creek
    Enduring Love
    Suspect Zero
    Schultze Gets the Blues

    Final Thoughts
    A disturbing, modern noir thriller with an excellent commentary make this a great choice of an independent film to pick up on DVD. The transfer captures the idiosyncrasies of the photography quite nicely. Well done.

  2. Travis Brashear

    Travis Brashear Screenwriter

    Oct 31, 1999
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    I would love to see this--I guess it was too highbrow to be released in Tulsa, Oklahoma... [​IMG]
  3. Matt Leigh

    Matt Leigh Stunt Coordinator

    Aug 8, 2004
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    I saw this at the Vancouver Film Fest. It certainly builds up tension and suspicion though the payoff isn't as clever or as interesting as I hoped it would be. Bale's performance is really good and the effort he put into it is really something.

    Brad Anderson is a talent to watch. Like the Machinist, Session 9 had a great premise and core story but with a weaker payoff. Happy Accidents was a cool romantic comedy that didn't follow any kind of formula and as such made it really interesting.

    I'd like to get a look at Machinist on DVD as the theatrical version was very grainy and visually extremely cold and dim.

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