In The Machinist, Christian Bale plays an emaciated machine shop worker who never sleeps and apparently also never eats. Bale is scary-thin here, and it’s not camera trickery. Throughout the movie he becomes thinner and more haggard, and near the end there are flashbacks to previous points in his character’s life when he had a more normal weight. These were filmed sometime before or after Bale’s dramatic weight loss, and the contrast on screen between the thin and normal Bale is almost incomprehensible.
Unfortunately, that dramatic weight change by the lead actor was the most interesting part of this film for me. The picture doesn’t suck, or anything, but it’s really just a trumped-up, big-budget Twilight Zone episode which would have fit nicely in a 60 minute running time. Unfortunately the picture is stretched out longer (and thinner, pun intended) than is necessary, which left me antsy for the damn thing to finish.
The story follows Bale’s character through his life as he doesn’t sleep and finds that stranger and stranger things keep happening to him. Are they hallucinations? Is he dreaming? Is he the victim of conspiracy? What is real and what isn’t? Who is real and who isn’t? The movie flirts with making all of these questions very interesting, but unfortunately settles for making them mildly engaging.
The plot is interesting, however, so I won’t spoil it by talking about it in any more detail. Bale does a good acting job in his role, as does the rest of the cast. The film has a suitably washed-out, foreboding look to it, and the ending was pretty strong when compared to the rest of the film. However, as a package, the whole thing is just slightly above average.