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The Machinist (2004) - #ThrowbackThursday

Review by Chris Olson

An insomnia-stricken factory worker suspects he is being plotted against by a mysterious man named Ivan, but, as the machinist attempts to unravel the conspiracy, he begins to doubt his own mind.

Starring Christian Bale as the aforementioned machinist called Trevor, the film provides a modern suspenseful thriller that makes some poignant comments about our industrial-aged society, whilst creating a very entertaining story. The film has typical science-fiction themes running through it, such as the enduring battle between man and machine, and the idea of our own consciousness in a world consumed with productivity.

Trevor’s plight during the film is largely founded on his own human aspects, i.e. the idea that he is flawed, and will make mistakes. This puts his character out of synch with his profession; working in a busy, industrial factory where time is money, and people are less valuable than the machines they work with. There is something ultimately terrifying about the coldness of Trevor’s life, which we see reflected in different ways during the movie.

Firstly, his only intimate relationships are with a waitress at an airport coffee shop, and with a prostitute, whom Trevor visits regularly. Stevie, the prostitute, is also a victim of our industrial society - she only serves one purpose (sexual gratification) and can be replaced at any time. She becomes attached to Trevor, because he sees her more as a human than a machine, wanting to just talk with her, or eat a meal together. This human connection is one of the few we see in the film, and it is important to note this rarity.

Secondly, we can see the effect that society is having on Trevor through the horrific gauntness of his body. Consistently losing weight, we see Bale as a near skeleton throughout the film, which could be providing a visual dilemma about the consequences of our diminishing role within our own society.

The end of the film provides some bittersweet relief to the viewer, as we learn that Trevor’s behaviour has resulted from a disaster in his past, which has caused him to imagine this plot against him. However, nothing seems solved. The machines will keep on producing, people will continue to endure the stagnation, and no lessons were learned from Bale’s misery.

A film that is openly depressing, but in an engaging way that makes us consider our own place within a modern, mechanic world.


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