zotwot’s review published on Letterboxd:
There have been a few actors who have undergone extreme weight loss for a role but surely Christian Bale took this to the next level. He lost a third of this body-weight for the role (62 pounds) and then when the film finished filming he had just six months to bulk up again to play Bruce Wayne in 'Batman Begins'.
All this was in order to play Trevor Reznik, a machinist with extreme insomnia. He claims he hasn't slept in over a year which I was skeptical about given that the longest recorded time without sleep is only eleven and a bit days. I was waiting for Guinness World Records to show up with a certificate for Reznik. At the beginning of the film though Reznik is coping remarkably well, holding down his job and regularly liaising with a prostitute who appears to be falling in love with him.
Things start to fall apart when he meets new colleague Ivan, a large, bald man. Ivan distracts Reznik at a vital moment which leads to colleague Miller losing fingers in a gruesome accident. It seemed obvious, to be at least, that Ivan is a figment of Reznik's imagination but it's less clear whether Ivan is a sinister projection or not.
What I really liked about this film is the fact it never becomes sensationalist. The accident isn't a gruesome death, it's a relatively common accident for that type of workplace. Reznik purses Ivan in his car but we don't get an over-the-top car chase. Even the reveal at the end of the film of what's really going on feels grounded and plausible which is great. So often thrillers can't help but going batshit crazy sooner or later but The Machinist keeps dialing things back every-time you think it's about to go off the rails. I thought it felt like an unusally convincing story other than Reznik not having slept for a year but even that can be explained as an exaggeration- maybe he's not slept much for a year but has slept a little.
The film has an extremely limited colour palette with greys and pale blues constantly filling the screen- we rarely see a colour brighter than beige. It's not to my taste at all but it made perfect sense in context, like we're seeing the world through Reznik's sepia filter.
It's not the cheeriest film around but nonetheless I thought it was really good. Bale is excellent and this is a rare case of a psychological thriller that didn't feel full of endless holes and stuck the landing perfectly.