I hate to argue with a movie critic I usually agree with, but I found The Machinist to be an interesting if not fast-paced film. What made it intriguing was that it was a close look at the mind of a long-term insomniac. What would you be like if you hadn't slept in a year?
Christian Bale chose to portray the character of Trevor Resnik, who has had insomnia for a year, as a man wasting away both physically and mentally and I think he chose well despite the health risks such a dramatic weight-loss probably brought with it. A thin man simply would not have been as believable as the emaciated, painful to look at skeleton Bale presents. Why would the other characters make statements such as "if you were any thinner you wouldn't exist" if he wasn't so painfully thin? Then again, why would prostitute Stevie, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh find him so attractive and want to date him either?
While it's easy to pick up the fact that Reznik's off-kilter paranoia is the most likely culprit behind what he's experiencing, what sneaks up on you at the end is the cause of his insomnia in the first place. Nothing in the film causes you to stop and wonder why he hasn't slept in so long, instead you are trying to figure out what trouble he'll get himself into next, if he'll live much longer as his weight dwindles to 119 despite gorging on greasy chicken, and what exactly is going on with the the violent flashes that don't seem to resolve into an actual crime? The closest hint they give you is the repeated association with "mother" whether it's the actual word, an object, or a person.
Walter claims that The Machinist is a blatant rip-off of Chuck Palahniuk's Fight Club because in one way or another the film largely takes place in the mind of the character without him realizing it. Well then I guess Palahniuk must have ripped off American Psycho, a novel written five years earlier by Bret Easton Ellis, in which the character believes he's committed unspeakable acts only to discover at the end that they were all in his head. Point in fact, why wouldn't a character who hadn't slept in over a year have paranoid delusions? Is it more believable that an office-jockey would have a ripped, rough-neck alter ego or that a guilt-wracked man who has a serious case of sleep deprivation would see things that aren't there and suffer memory loss?
By no means is The Machinist the movie-of-the year, nor is it something I'd watch when eager for fast-paced violence or splodies. Frankly it is a Leaving Las Vegas type of film, wherein you watch a character's emotional state slowly degrade. However when it's a lazy Sunday afternoon and you want something intriguing that you can just sit back and watch unfold this isn't a bad choice. Then again, I watched it after a night of movie watching ending at 5am with only 5 hours of sleep charging me for the next day. Perhaps it was my mental state that caused me to like the film despite a lack of adrenalin or laughs.