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4.1 out of 5 stars
The Machinist [Blu-ray]
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107 of 115 people found the following review helpful
on June 10, 2005
Format: DVD
I have to say that "The Machinist" is easily the most unsettling, disturbing and bizarre film I have seen so far this year. I mean, you can tell from reading the back of the DVD cover and seeing how disturbingly thin Christian Bale in pictures from the movie that this is not going to be a very happy time. Yet, last night I was in the mood for something dark and uncompromising. I got it and then some with this cleverly haunting film that is unforgettable.

Bale plays "Trevor Reznik," a troubled and fatigued machinist who hasn't slept for a year. He lives his life in isolation, with the few minor exceptions such as a friendly prostitute who takes a liking to him and an airport coffee shop waitress he visits every night. Things take a turn for the worst when he meets a fellow machinist for the first time... but nobody knows who this guy is. They tell Trevor that he doesn't exist. The paranoia and confusion leads to a horrific accident on the job that involves his co-worker. And that's when he gets the strange notes in his apartment. Either Trevor is completely delusional and has lost his mind... or somebody really is out to get him.

What's really intriguing about the movie is that just like Trevor, we do not know exactly what is real or what is made up. There are times when we're doubtful of what we're seeing, and then we get roped in and second-guess ourselves. The movie is a non-stop dread fest that just speaks of loneliness and paranoia, and that's why it works. It looks and feels exactly like it should. From the very first few minutes, it's easy to realize that this is going to be one unsettling and dark experience. It is one that you may want to re-watch after you see it all. You'll definitely think about it for a while after it's all said and done, but personally I didn't think it was that hard to piece together after it was over. It made sense, and it made even more sense on the second viewing. Christian Bale is fantastic in this. I can't believe he dropped down to around 100 pounds for the role. Yes, you should be warned that Bale looks EXTREMELY skinny in this... almost like a walking skeleton, as was intended in the script. I think the movie was very well written and directed.

This isn't a movie for those who get easily disturbed or freaked out. It's a pretty uneasy movie to watch. Let's just say you won't feel extremely cheerful after you get done watching this. You may want to put on something funny after you're done, otherwise you're going to have this movie stuck in your head while you try to sleep. The DVD has a little to offer in the extra features department, such as commentary from the director, a making of feature, 8 deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer.

I really enjoyed "The Machinist." It surprised me and kept me hooked from beginning to end. I have to say that I kind of missed watching dark movies like this. Seems like there's too many "cutesy-wutesy" movies for the family, so it's good to see something so brutal, so raw and so in your face like this. If you want to be disturbed and see something that isn't your typical thriller, "The Machinist" is something to put down on your list of movies to see. As depressing and dreadful as this movie can get... I'm ready to see it again. -Michael Crane
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35 of 38 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2005
Format: DVD
There's so much I'd like to write about this movie, but I can't. I don't want to give even the slightest bit away. Yeah, it's cheap, I know, but I saw it with pretty much a blank slate and I think that's absolutely the best way to do. You must see this movie. Then come back and read some of these reviews, like I did (some of the reviewers give away WAY too much, I felt).

This movie is a feast for all the senses. Christian Bale plays a frighteningly emaciated industrial worker lives like an apparition in a washed out, grimy world. This reminds me of Orwell's vision of postwar England as portrayed in "1984" - grim, bleak, washed-out, bleary-eyed, ephemeral and unreal, like being stuck in a perpetual hangover in an old war zone. For a while this movie was billed as a "horror" movie but it's really psychological horror that manifests itself in a few conventionally horrific ways. It does have similarities to "Sessions 9" as others have pointed out, by the same director. Internal angst and self-discovery juxtaposed against a decaying old backdrop.

This movie is like what Henry James might have written if he were alive today! The cinematography is great, the settings are excellently done and quite creepy and unsettling, even as they are familiar. And the music! The music is great, it's about time someone gave some love to the theremin again. The acting is top-notch from everyone involved, especially Christian Bale. A scene-grabber for sure.

Every facet of the movie was executed in a professionally frightening and somewhat hallucinatory manner. But don't be fooled by that term. There really is very little David Lynch and such style in this movie, in my opinion. It does more showing and less telling, yes, but it does so in a more straight-ahead approach with less cloying. If the movie has a weakness, which it may very well not, it's the ending; however, I congratulate the writers, because this was an extraordinarily difficult movie to write a conclusion to that doesn't cheat the audience or leave things too open-ended (the famous "draw your own conclusions" ending that give critics something to rave about and writers and easy out).

In conclusion, "The Machinist" deserves 5 stars on virtually every level, and as a whole. Watch it as soon as possible, I don't think you'll be disappointed, and I'd be surprised if anyone feels "cheated" like you do with some ambitious movies.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
on September 10, 2006
Format: DVD
no accident that the main character's named Trevor Reznik; the filmmaker, Brad Anderson, is a fan of Nine Inch Nails, fronted by Trent Reznor: the same dark gloomy kinda thing spills over from the Nine Inch Nails music into this film, with its dark gray washed out interiors and just as dank cloudy exteriors (but they appear only when Trevor's by himself--watch how, for example, when he meets other people, like his co-worker Miller and Miller's wife, the sky is a lot clearer).

Trevor, the ever-insomniac, not only evokes Trent Reznor but also Cesare from The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari--the ever-present sleepwalker. Trevor is more of a walksleeper than a sleepwalker; he hasn't copped any zees in a year (not very credible, actually; if that were really true, he'd be dead a few times over), moving around in a paranoid daze with a number of flashes of rationality, and solace provided by either a friendly hooker (Jennifer Jason Leigh) or a comely waitress (a beautiful Spanish actress whose name escapes me).

The film is uncompromising and because of that no American production company would finance it. It was paid for and shot in Barcelona, Spain--which not too many people know about--and the director did everything he could to make the Spanish exteriors and interiors look American.

Trevor is played by Christian Bale, he of the formerly smarmy demeanor in American Psycho, but here reduced by 63 pounds from his former self to the aforementioned Cesare-like walking skeleton resemblance kinda thing. Watching him without his shirt on is truly painful. Disturbing. Which, of course, is the point.

Accidents follow Trevor wherever he goes. This is the core of the film. He's also followed by his own personal demon, Ivan, who's invisible to everyone else. Ivan has a severly deformed hand, like that of a thalidomide-afflicted person, and a grin that could slice your ear off. Bald, thickset, and a Southern accent to boot. Just as creepy as Trevor. Maybe more.

So what is this film about? It's really about guilt. That's it in a nutshell. Guilt, fear, and the persistence of memory, as our friend Salvador Dali would say. Not exactly a bouncy piece of work. Not something to watch with old Aunt Millie sitting next to you, hoping for Cary Grant to come on and say something utterly and stupidly charming.

Trevor's life is grit; he works in a machine shop factory kinda thing where the workers are all union members who live life day to day and stick up for each other and resent anyone who isn't just like them. So naturally, that leaves our anti-hero out of the picture. He forgets to pay his utility bill at home and his lights go out. Post-Its keep appearing on his refrigerator with a game of Hangman he never started but there's no way of knowing who's leaving those Post-Its there. Is there?

Not only is this about guilt, but also about karma. For every action, there's an equal and opposite reaction. What goes around comes around. Stuff like that. You can't escape the past. You can try...but you can't. Ever.

That's what this is about. Dark, disturbing, deranged. The three D's. Also devilish, dank, dismal, defiant.

Definitely different.
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21 of 24 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon January 9, 2006
Format: DVD
I see a number of essay-length reviews of this movie, which makes sense, as the movie is indeed deep and complex - yet for the sake of those simply seeking a concise review, I will keep it brief.

The movie has a dark and uncollected tone. Christian Bale plays Trevor Reznick, a man who is unable to sleep and who has become malnourished and emaciated. His inability to sleep causes him great trouble and leads him in and out of reality until he is brought back to the source - that which has caused his troubles and his insomnia: his guilt.

Bale gives an unbelievable performance in this film. I can't imagine it ever being worth what he did to himself physically, though. He simply starved himself for the role. You would think this would have horrible repercussions (and I'm sure it did), yet he seemed to have made a full recovery by the time he played Bruce Wayne in Batman.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on April 1, 2006
Format: DVD
Making good psychological thrillers is hard. It seems too many are so contrived now days. Since Hitchcock there've only been a few contenders to the throne, perhaps David Lynch has come closest to succeeding him. But the Machinist was definitely a pleasant surprise and a film that can take its place as one of the best in recent memory.

The film itself is very reminiscent of Jacob's Ladder, both in atmosphere and thematic elements. Both were about a man going on an inner quest to discover something important about himself and his past. Both are very disturbing films that puts the viewer in the place of the protagonist himself, allowing you to feel the same confusion and fear that they feel throughout the film.

The same also carries through to the lead actors. Tim Robbins gave perhaps his best performance of his career in Jacob's Ladder and I can say with full confidence that Christian Bale gives an equally startling and awe inspiring performance here. Much has been said about his weight loss for the movie - some 60+ pounds, down to 120-100 to where he really looks like a walking skeleton. While his physical tranformation was nothing short of extraordinary, his acting peformance equals it. Giving a great performance as Trevor Reznick - the insomnia stricken machinist who begins having one strange, possibly delusional experience after another.

The people in Trevor's life includes Stevie, a call girl, played beautifully and subtly by Jennifer Jason Leigh, a true friend and confidant to Trevor throughout the film. Marie, a waitress at a diner whom Trevor visits every night for coffee and conversation. Ivan, a strange man with a deformed hand who has just shown up at Trevor's work. Nobody even seems to know he exists besides Trevor which leads to much of Trevor's fear and confusion throughout the film. And the people at the machinery where Trevor works including his boss, Tucker, and co-worker Miller.

The atmosphere the film gives off is wonderful. Very reminiscent of Jacob's Ladder again. It's dark, grey, and haunting. There are moments where the viewer feels helpless as to what's happening to Trevor which adds to the eerie feeling. It's not an easy film to watch all of the time. As with Jacob's Ladder, there are those memorable scenes that stay with you long after it's over. Jacob's Ladder had the hospital scene, The Machinist has the carnival ride. Both work wonderfully within each film.

The thematic elements was nearly identical to Jacob's Ladder but The Machinist approached it in a completely different way (which was smart). It's hard to discuss without giving too much away, but it's safe to say that the main theme is the cause of all Trevor's problems including his insomnia and weight loss. Trevor basically goes through hell and back before he comes face to face with his (metaphorical) demons and confronts what's been causing his suffering.

When all is said and done The Machinist was a very good but not perfect film. With all the simularities to Jacob's Ladder it wasn't entirely original. The music was also a downside. It sounds like it was ripped off an old B-movie and it really detracts from the tense scenes. There's also not nearly as much depth to The Machinist as there was in other films like Jacob's Ladder or Mulholland Drive (which has seemingly endless depth and complexity) that warrant and reward many repeat viewings.

Not to say The Machinist doesn't have some depth, but there isn't enough in the film to watch it over and over. There are a few reoccuring ideas though - notice the liscense plate on Trevor's truck when he exits the tunnel after chasing Ivan and the left/right path motif from the carnival ride and near the end of the movie.

Also, the many Fight Club references made in the reviews here about this movie are highly unwarranted. These were two VERY different films other than the unsuspected endings. The themes and atmosphere were entirely different as well. If you want to find out where a large portion of this film's inspiration came from, go watch Jacob's Ladder, NOT Fight Club.

If you love psychological thrillers, The Machinist is certainly worth a rent. It's also worth seeing just for Bale's performance. It's dark and certainly not a happy movie, but sometimes that's what you're in the mood for.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on September 4, 2005
Format: DVD
This film has been promoted as a "psychological mystery," and on one level it is that. But it goes much deeper, and reads almost like a Flannery O'Connor story translated to an urban postmodern setting by Rod Serling. There are also resonances with Dostoevsky: indeed, one of the pivotal character's names is Ivan, and the book the main character, Trevor Reznik, reads in the movie is THE IDIOT. There are also a lot of incidences of symbolism: light vs darkness, right vs left, etc. and lots of symbolic reversals and inversions. These all play into the "mystery" element: how much of what Reznik experiences is real, and how much is in his head? And why are these things happening to him in the first place? All this is resolved in a very satisfying ending, which packs quite an emotional wallop. In that sense it reminded me a bit of O'Connor's story "Parker's Back." It also bears rewatching, as much of the symbolism is only made clear at the end, and if you watch it again knowing the denouement the symbols, foreshadowing, etc. become much more apparent. This isn't just another trick film like THE USUAL SUSPECTS (excellent) or IDENTITY (not so excellent). It has a deep moral and philosophical resonance that other films of this type don't have.

Christian Bale (the new "Batman") is excellent as Reznik; he lost 60-some pounds to play the role and in some scenes he is painful to look at, resembling a death-camp refugee. The other cast members are good too, especially John Sharian as a creepy co-worker who seems to know more about Reznik than he should, and Jennifer Jason Leigh as a world-weary hooker who gives Reznik some temporary solace. The direction is reminiscent of Hitchcock, and the score too recalls that of Hitchcock films, being unusually "retro" (very much in the Bernard Herrmann mode) and not at all industrial or postmodern-sounding like one might expect.

Be warned that the film is a bit of a hard "R." There is some partial nudity, a fair amount of coarse language, etc. But having said that, I can honestly say that I haven't seen a movie in ages (and certainly not a contemporary one) that deals with the same issues that O'Connor and Dosty did, in any kind of adult, satisfying manner. I'd also advise against reading reviews of the film online: many of those I've read have been "spoilers," and most in any case deal only with the surface elements of paranoia and alienation, not with the deeper moral and philosophical issues. Guilt and grace are here, but not in ways you'll expect. One of the Desert Fathers said, "It is a greater miracle for a man to see himself as he really is than to raise the dead." Think about this as Reznik searches for the answer to the chief question of the film: "Who are you?"

P.S. To the reviewers who keep comparing this movie to FIGHT CLUB: you need to pay more attention. This is NOT a "double personality movie," or a one-trick pony like that lamentable film was. As for reviewer "Jimmy" who wants the Dostoevsky comparisons to be stopped, and sees nothing redemptive in THE MACHINIST, he definitely needs to read Flannery O'Connor.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon November 30, 2005
Format: DVD
Christian Bale is an excellent actor who deserves much more credit that he receives from both the critics and views alike. I mean he started as a boy in Speilberg's "Empire Under the Sun" (watch it and be amazed at his acting skills even then) and starred in such groundbreaking roles as "American Pyscho", and yet he is often overlooked when great actors are mentioned. This movie should move him up to the top of the list. Here he delineates a character to such a powerful degree that sometimes I simply stared at the screen in disbelief. I hardly recognized him at first, he was so skinny that every bone showed......please let that be the product of some Hollywood magic? The storyline is eerie and compelling and recounted so many times here that I will leave it alone. The dialogue is smart and every character is well played (even if Jennifer Jason Leigh has the downtrodden prostitute role down to a science). Although I loved this movie and gave it 5 stars, I do have one complaint. I felt this movie reminded me too much of another film (not going to name it outright & make you think the same thing other to say a Ed Norton vehicle) which affected my initial viewing to a point. It had the same dark and brooding cinematography and the plot seemed to follow similar lines; however, upon another viewing I realized how original this movie was and how it stands alone as a great piece of filmaking. You really do not want to miss this film. This is definitely a movie that you will talk about with your friends.....or even strangers.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVD
The music cues, some of the camera work, camera shots, etc are very reminiscent of Hitchcock's work, and that lends a lot to this film.

This film combines a lot of things I liked in other films, like "Fight Club", "Jacob's Ladder", assorted Hitchcock films, etc.

We all have seen and heard of actors gaining or losing spectacular amounts of weight for a film role, but JEEZY PEEZY!! Bale outdoes them all with this one.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Christian Bale is shocking to see in this film about a man who is skeleton-thin and sleepless due to mysterious causes. As his character Trevor explores the strange goings-on that threaten to close in around him, the viewer is inexorably drawn in and dragged along. Thankfully, this film has a satisfying ending which explains a lot of what went before. The Machinist is startling and well-crafted movie.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on March 23, 2005
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Christian Bale is Trevor Reznik. His performance as a deathly thin insomniac machinist is so unerring perfect it's disturbing. He is the character in every way. By now it's well known he dropped down to an unhealthy 117 lbs for the role (though the movie says he weighs 119, he admitted afterward that he actually weighed less). Throughout the film Trevor is tormented by Ivan, a man no one else can see. Bizarre, horrific things are happening all around Trevor and he believes Ivan is responsible for it.

If you liked Se7en and Fight Club, you'll probably like The Machinist. It's a rather simpler story, but the style is very similar, even in terms of cinematograpy (it's directed by Brad Anderson, not David Fincher), though the execution may be even better. Perhaps because the movie is smaller in scope than either aforementioned films, the story is more coherent and when it's over, more conclusive and satisfying (partly because Fight Club did not use the book's original ending). Even more so than Fight Club, the ending is surprising, though you'll wonder why you didn't see it right in front of you the entire time. The Machinist is an intelligent, clever take on what could have been a predictable, cliche mess. Highly recommended.
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