The Machinist / El maquinista (2004)
Director Brad Anderson and screenwriter Scott Kosar were rejected by a number of American studios and producers before finding funding in Spain with Julio Fernandez heading the production. The Americans claimed the screenplay was to weird and deviated, but sometimes the fact that Americans think that, bodes for a creative idea. And with The Machinist, the fact that Brad Anderson had to go to Spain in order to find producers who would let him make the film his own way, was definitely a blessing.
In pace, colouring and narrative structure, The Machinist is more of its time than it is groundbreaking. We follow our distinctive protagonist in a quest to solve a mystery that leads him into exploring the past. As with Christopher Nolan's Memento, the narrative largely rewinds, but The Machinist doesn't put the same amount of emphasis to what it tries to do as Nolan did. Anderson spices his film up shrewdly along the way with small hints, foresights and clever pieces of storytelling, but his trick is never to blow his own trumpet about it. The cold blue/grey colour palette is classic for this type of film, but it still looks better than most equivalent films; tight and detailed, but never deranged.
Anderson lets us dwell in the expected aloof, sparsely populated world that he presents. But what works great with The Machinist (as opposed to so many American mystery films) is that people for the most of the time acts normally. As with Miller, for instance, who through Michael Ironside's fine performance comes off as a human and sensible person. People don't usually lose it as often as they do in films when unexpected things (in Miller's case, a physical crisis) happens to them. The Machinist is wise enough to take note of that, and even our Trevor Reznik stretches far to remain his usual self. As Christian Bale said in one of his previous great performances "I want to fit in!"
There is of course no way to review The Machinist without acknowledging the importance of Christian Bale. He brings his Trevor Reznik to life (which is impressive in itself, bearing in mind his looks) so incredibly nuanced and believable. There are two sides to his performance here. First, the physical, which not only makes the entire basis of the character extremely effective, but also shows what an unbelievable sacrifice Bale has made for what he believed in himself. Going from 82 to 54 kilos eating nothing but tuna and apples (and without a personal nutritionist, mind you) shows what an self-destructive perfectionist he is. And secondly, his soul-searching, psychologically distinct performance. I fear not saying that Christian Bale's Trevor Reznik is one of the most powerful performances in a long time. He makes us suffer with him, and when it is all over, we are truly happy and accepting when he reveals that he "just want to sleep".