22 November 2004 | noralee
A Dark and Spooky Psychological Thriller
"The Machinist" demonstrates that "Session 9" wasn't the only creepy thriller that Brad Anderson could do.
While M. Night Shyamalan and commercial fare like "The Grudge" get the attention and the big bucks, Anderson is quietly mastering disturbing, psychologically scary shockers. While the previous movie took advantage of our imaginations leaping around a spooky environment, "The Machinist" makes our discomfort palpably visual in Christian Bale's painful to look at body, as his character is ravaged by insomnia and loss of appetite; by the end of the movie it's shocking to see his normally handsome face.
But all the focus on his astounding weight loss takes away from the other elements in the almost black and white film that make it a scare fest. The movie establishes "The Twilight Zone" mood immediately with the soundtrack, which includes generous use of the theremin, as Hitchcock did in "Psycho." The production design is excellent at supporting the mood.
The suspense builds and is sustained through to the satisfying conclusion as you genuinely get involved in Bale's efforts to solve the increasingly mysterious happenings around him. Even though you are pretty sure he could be hallucinating, you are intrigued to figure out the trigger.
Despite looking like a caricature of a Holocaust victim, Bale creates a full character, from the jocular male camaraderie of the factory where he doesn't quite seem to fit in to responding one beat off to the warmth of the two women in his life, a waitress and a prostitute with the an open heart of gold (played, as usual by Jennifer Jason Leigh, but effectively languid).