Friday, October 22, 2010

Movie Appraisal: The Machinist (2004)

The Machinist is usually best known as the movie that Christian Bale lost a ton of weight for. It's a little unfair to the movie honestly. Sure, it's quite an accomplishment to go and nearly become anorexic for a role, but I don't think that an actor being skinny is what a movie should be known for. I guess that's my opinion. I mean, directly afterward Christian Bale had to put on a ton of weight to play Batman... so, I guess what I'm saying is that this movie is only ever known (and most people don't even know the name of the film) because Christian Bale had to gain weight to play Batman after losing weight to be in this film.

This is another of my favorite film genre: psychological horror. I guess the genre can be known as psychological thriller too, but I never liked that term. A thriller implies something different to me than horror, and this film seems very much like a horror film to me... there are some scares, and some genuinely uncomfortable parts... it doesn't quite strike me as a thriller in that regard... I guess maybe it's because I think of a thriller as something by Alfred Hitchcock or a movie that is very much like a Hitchcock film or has a Hitchcock kind of plot. This film, from my own definition, is certainly not a thriller, but a horror film. It's a argument of semantics, but, I think, in this case, it's an argument worth making. Actually Jacob's Ladder has the same problem and I'd argue it even more strongly with that movie and some of the horrific scenes therein.

This movie is a great one to watch at this time of year. It just works so well as a psychological film. I mean, if Jacob's Ladder emphasized both horror and a psychological aspect than this one plays things a little differently. The psychological aspect of this film is much stronger, actively screwing with both the main character's perceptions and the audience's as well. It makes this film a bit of a mind screw, which, in my book, is a good thing.

I like this film. I don't love it. It's not one of my favorite of all time, but I do think it is good. I think it is worth watching. The story and acting are excellent, but I do feel the visuals are not as stunning as other movies of this genre such as Jacob's Ladder (Which was made fourteen years before this one.) or 1408. This movie takes a lot from Jacob's Ladder, either intentionally or unintentionally, and those parts make it interesting if not unique. It's main story is quite fascinating and works out to be quite the puzzle.

I actually think I might have liked the film for one particular reason: The main character suffers from a terrible insomnia that has kept him awake for a very long time. It was this insomnia that caused him to lose a ton of weight. I can sympathize. I have pretty bad insomnia (or something like it) and seeing a movie portray insomnia as this movie does... which is accurately... or semi-accurately... makes me happy. It means that there are still some cages of a life that are terrifying even today, in this age of cell phones, laptops, and very little real horror... the horror of being trapped in your own mind... or trapped by your own emotions... or sleeplessness... is one that really strikes me as genuine.

There you go.

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