COLUMN: “The Machinist”: a psychological film led by an iconic leading performance  


Rob Le Cates

Drew Coffey is a sophomore television and video production major and can be reached at 217-581-2812.

Drew Coffey, Columnist

“The Machinist” is a psychological thriller that was made in 2004 and directed by Brad Anderson. It stars Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and John Sharian.  

The film tells the story of insomnia suffering Trevor Reznik who has struggled to sleep for a year causing his mental health as well as his weight to wither away.

After causing a workplace accident resulting in one of his friends being gravely wounded, Trevor descends into a rabbit hole of paranoia revealing his tragic past.  

To start, the most notable aspect of the film is Christian Bale’s iconic transformation in which he lost a dangerous 63 pounds to really display the disturbing and downright hard-to-see aspect of Trevor Reznik’s character.

Bale achieved his weight loss by eating only one can of tuna and an apple per day showing his commitment and dedication to his craft as an actor.  

To know that there are no effects to his appearance in the film earns every ounce of respect for Bale and his well-known chameleon-like approach to acting.  

In terms of his performance, Bale is absolutely incredible.  

He plays the role of Trevor as a kindhearted but equally tortured person who becomes gradually more untrusting in his own mind.

This makes the audience root for Trevor in a way to be right about his idea of what’s really going on around him because we only see him as a seemingly innocent but lonely man. 

 As he finds new information in the film, his expression and reactions to the situations show a hopeless and obviously exhausted energy to it that really sells the story.  

The film’s story is also very clever and disjointed in the way it reveals twists or makes you question the reliability of Trevor’s memories.

There are also many moments where little things will happen in a scene that the audience doesn’t fully know about making the final reveal even more rewarding and devastating.  

 Many times, Trevor will be having a conversation with someone, but the scene will have a sense of weirdness to it almost as if you are in a dream.  

This can be credited to the film’s effective use of cinematography.  

The film is very dreary and pale throughout its entirety.

This really helps the audience feel the hopelessly empty feeling that Trevor, as well as other characters, feel in their lives while also taking away any sense of comfortability with the film.  

The music for the film definitely uses creative and interesting choices.  

Many times, when Trevor is driving around, sometimes following people he suspects is a threat, it uses some classical and older generation style music making the film reminiscent of thriller films from the 1960s.  

This creative touch to the film’s music gives it a more classic feel that only benefits the film in the end.  

Ultimately, “The Machinist” is a cleverly written, grimy, and dark film that has a masterclass performance to help make it a very thought-provoking psychological thriller.  

My overall rating: 4/5 

Drew Coffey is a sophomore television/video production major. He can be reached at [email protected] or 217-581-2812.