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Christian Bale
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Aitana Sanchez-Gijon
John Sharian
Michael Ironside
Matthew Romero
Larry Gilliard Jr.
Anna Massey.
Brad Anderson.
Scott Alan Kosar.
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102 minutes

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The Machinist

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Emaciated metalworker Trevor Reznik (Bale) is falling apart. He can’t eat, he can’t sleep and someone is playing Hangman on his fridge Post-It notes. And who’s the big guy in the red sports car keeping tabs on him? Now, with a dead body on his hands, it’s time for Trevor to face up to reality, wherever that is…

Given the current obsession with high-impact dieting, Christian Bale should think about marketing his own brand of weight-loss expertise. For this deep-set thriller, lurking somewhere in the hinterlands of the horror genre, the actor has shed so many pounds he’s barely intact. The almighty gulf between the full-pumped vision of American Psycho and this shocking skeletal shadow, just bones and sinew bound together by the translucent parchment of his skin, is enough to throw you into tailspin. What the hell is up with this guy?

The hideous imagery it references, that haunting footage of emaciated Holocaust survivors, all but threatens to tip Brad Anderson’s brute nightmare completely out of whack. But give Bale his due — in a striking physical performance, he gives the film far more than xylophone ribs. The death mask is incidental — it’s his mind where things are truly coming apart.

There’s also the cold imagery to admire, a twilight of metallic hues and stark bathroom floors so drained of primary colour the film almost strays into a ghostly black and white. We’re being presented with a conundrum. Why is this lowly, polite machine operator losing the plot? We’re told he hasn’t slept for a year, and, boy, it looks like it. He has passing sex with kindly hooker Jennifer Jason Leigh and, when we first glimpse him, he’s rolling up a corpse in a carpet. Like a manic-depressive David Lynch, Anderson wants to freak us out, to rattle our own ribcages; we’re only seeing the world through Reznik’s eyes and they’re not to be trusted.

Yet, for all the frozen wastes of his style, Anderson is not a subtle manager of mystery. With not-so-furtive symbolism, he has his sunken character reading Dostoyevsky’s The Idiot to give us a little nudge. Add the presence of Polanski’s The Tenant, Fight Club, Memento and Hitchcock’s psychological leering, and Reznik isn’t the only one suffering déjà vu. A few scenes into the gloom and you’ll have a good idea what is generally up, if not the specifics, making the journey toward the eventual, inevitable twist fairly one-dimensional. It’s a result so painfully logical it would make Lynch’s hair stand on end.

It looks and feels the business, both in Bale's bone-bag of a body and the morphine-dosed-Kubrick vibe, but it's more a tightly wrought slither through pastures old than fresh investigation into the claws of madness.

Reviewed by Ian Nathan

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Average user rating for The Machinist
Empire Star Rating

Bale's Best Performance

The Machinist is a Lynchian-style thriller through which nothing is certain and very little is resolved. So far, so every other thriller that's come out over the last ten years. Where The Machinist succeeds, however, is in its' attention to detail, its' gut-churning apprehension of the unknown, and its' surrealist imagining of a world through the eyes of an insomniac, all held together by Bale's superb performance. It is true, a lot of the elements contained within the film (insomnia, delusion, ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by blaud at 17:08, 17 January 2013 | Report This Post

The Machinist Review

A suspenseful low-budget thriller where Christian Bale completely inhabits his role, really inhabits it. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by the film man at 00:24, 07 February 2012 | Report This Post

yeh it aint entirely original, but damn i was gripped. probably the most tragic film i've seen in a while, and the atmosphere was relentless. it was brilliant, affecting drama and it'll definately be one that sticks in the memory. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by richCie at 21:55, 24 August 2008 | Report This Post


It's a bit of shame that Bale put all that effort and dedication into a film that doesn't really cut it. It certainly would be a much lesser piece without his contribution. He looks utterly dreadful; at times you have to look away, such is the extent of his starvation.   But despite the problems with the plot - ie, there isn't really enough of it - the film does have a lingering power. Director Brad Anderson gives it a fantastic look, and Barcelona makes a convincing US city. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by RJNeb2 at 16:00, 19 April 2008 | Report This Post

i enjoyed this - ok once you,ve seen it its nothing new - rehashed ideas everywhere but Christian Bail is just brilliant. Goes as far as De Niro in Raging Bull just to get the aperance that he might just colapse and die at any moment. gotta b worth 4 ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by bobbyperu at 22:13, 24 October 2007 | Report This Post

Review 3 - The Machinist

I personally really enjoyed the film, even though its a film that at times is hard to follow, but overal a great film. First, hats off to Bale for the incrediable acting and the way he portrays the character, his damn-right disgusting body shape and the tired expression are amazing, and really make you feel closer to the character and symphaise with him. The story is amazing too, from parts where you can see whats going to happen to parts where you are on the edge of your seat (especially ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by simontchilds07 at 20:23, 01 May 2007 | Report This Post

The Machinist

When a fantastic performance is cocooned in a mediocre and predictable plot, is the film any good? For me, without Christian Bale this would be very ordinary, at times even boring. The climax is predictable and the fact that the reason for it is more revealing than the 'twist' is of little benefit. This is one film that has been let down by the pacing of its first two acts and perhaps some ordinary direction. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by qualidad at 16:14, 31 May 2006 | Report This Post

Intellignet and thought provoking without trying to be clever or confuse. Definitely on a par with Fught Club and Memento. I'm not sure if he really needed to lose all that weight to get the point across, but full marks to Bale for his commitment. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Schlamper at 12:06, 18 April 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Machinist, The

I watched this when I was in Glasgow.  I didn't really know what to expect, but was shocked at some aspects of it.  Bale's appearance...  fragile, thin to the point of trying to disappear.  It gives commentary that the old saying, "I wish the ground would open and swallow me up" will not remove us from the wrongs we commit in life.  There is a price - consequences - to pay for our decisions.   I give it 4 out of 5. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by lulu karma at 15:49, 12 January 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Machinist, The

I love it, it's so atmospheric and Bale is incredible. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by rich at 22:15, 10 January 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Machinist, The

I apologise, I edited it now just in case. There's still a lot more surprises in the film though even if you know that. ... More

Posted by Dark Angel at 17:45, 10 January 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Machinist, The

Thanks for that spoiler Dark Angel  ... More

Posted by forbidden_planet at 11:12, 10 January 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Machinist, The

I love this film, not as good as Session 9 by Brad Anderson but still very good. Christian Bale is amazing as always and showed real dedication by losing so much weight for the role. SPOILER I hate when people try to criticise the film by saying it was obvious that Ivan wasn't real, it's not meant to be a massive shock, but the whole plot and why exactly he was there was far from predictable. SPOILER END The film had a great atmosphere that was sort of weird and creepy, which I think is... More

Posted by Dark Angel at 22:07, 09 January 2006 | Report This Post

RE: Machinist, The

I love this film. It is one of the best I have seen this year. A great thriller it shows Christian Bale has truly come into his own. In years from now this will be a cult hit. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by BasilFawlty at 21:15, 09 January 2006 | Report This Post

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