I knew nothing about this film going into it. Normally I’ll do a bit of research before diving into a movie, but I watched The Machinist after a spur of the moment decision. I’m happy I did, because although it certainly wasn’t flawless, I found it to be an engaging and rewarding psychological thriller.
Much of this film reminds me of Memento. Its washed out color palette, protagonist struggling with a mental affliction, and eerie feel create an atmosphere that is familiar in many ways, but certainly not excessively derivative. It follows Trevor Reznik, a factory worker coping with insomnia, who struggles to go about his life in the face of his condition. Throughout the film, we find out more and more about the origin of Trevor’s mysterious disease and are challenged to figure out what is real and what is a figment of Trevor’s mind. The film does a great job of putting its viewers in Trevor’s shoes. The fast cuts, intentionally bland color palette, and sometimes unsettling camerawork all contribute to the feeling that Trevor’s life and struggles are never-ending, that he is unable to escape from the condition that haunts him. The film tells an engaging story centered around Trevor’s relationships, his life and work, and the events leading up to the challenges he faces. Without spoiling too much, it provides an interesting perspective on the idea of running from one’s own past, and the pursuit of redemption by seeking the truth.
While the film is strong overall, there are a few issues that took me out of the experience during my viewing. First, there was some rather poor acting. Bale does a good job, but some of the minor characters feel unconvincing. This is particularly evident in a scene where Trevor has an exchange with an employee at the DMV. During the conversation, the employee talks like an NPC in a role-playing game. Also, I felt that the pace and writing of the film got a bit muddled about three quarters of the way through at the start of its resolution. It’s pretty well-crafted for the most part, but it loses it focus a bit in the second half before getting it together for the conclusion. Again, these issues are noticeable, but they’re small blemishes on an otherwise great film. I’d recommend it to any fan of psychological thrillers.