Should I Watch..? 'The Machinist'

Updated on April 14, 2020
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online for over fifteen years.

Poster for "The Machinist"
Poster for "The Machinist" | Source

What's the big deal?

The Machinist is a psychological thriller film released in 2004 and was written by Scott Kosar whilst he attended a screenwriting course at the UCLA School of Theatre, Film & Television. Produced and shot in Spain, the film stars Christian Bale as an insomniac factory worker who begins to doubt his own sanity after he accidentally causes an industrial accident. The film became almost synonymous with Bale's extreme weight-loss program he put himself through for the part, reducing his weight down to 120 lbs or 54 kg. The film's supporting cast includes Michael Ironside, Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Sharian and Aitana Sánchez-Gijon. Although the film only made $8.2 million, the film was highly praised by critics who highlighted Bale's performance and commitment as well as the film's complex narrative and moody atmosphere.


4 stars for The Machinist

What's it about?

Trevor Reznik has been going through a rough patch. Having suffered from insomnia for the last year, his body is wasting away to the point of emaciation and his appearance and behaviour at work isolates him from his colleagues. After he accidentally causes an accident where his co-worker Miller loses a hand, Trevor blames it on being distracted by another co-worker Ivan despite the fact that nobody at the factory has heard of him and there is no record of an employee called Ivan.

Reznik only seems to find solace with airport waitress Maria who serves him through the night and Stevie, a prostitute who is genuinely worried about him. Haunted by visions and recurring nightmares, Trevor's apartment is soon littered with yellow post-it notes including one with appears to be a game of Hangman. Believing himself to be the victim of a conspiracy, Trevor pursues the truth and starts with the one responsible for the accident - the enigmatic Ivan...


Main Cast

Christian Bale
Trevor Reznik
Jennifer Jason Leigh
John Starian
Aitana Sánchez-Gijón
Michael Ironside

Technical Info

Brad Anderson
Scott Kosar
Running Time
101 minutes
Release Date (UK)
18th March, 2005
Drama, Psychological, Thriller
Bale's impressive transformation is as disturbing as it is necessary.
Bale's impressive transformation is as disturbing as it is necessary. | Source

What's to like?

It's not often that a film comes along and is able to justify using its influences as well as The Machinist which has echoes of Hitchcock and David Lynch as well as other films like Fight Club. Contributing to the film's unsettling atmosphere is Bale whose skeletal frame is almost upsetting to see, especially during scenes when he's moving about because you worry he might break in the process. It's impossible to take your eyes off him throughout the film, although you might want to.

The film's story is also superb and as the conspiracy appears to spread, you wonder how much is real and how much is imaginary. It's a fascinating character study into a diseased and warped mind and the journey is both enthralling and horrifying at the same time. Because you're already questioning everything, the film's big reveal might not be that surprising if you've picked up all the clues but it's extremely poignant and brutal with the truth. I loved the dirty, grubby feel of the film with its innate sense of despair and decay which is underlined by Bale's zombie-like appearance. Compare this to a big-budget chiller like Gothika and the film becomes even more impressive. It's a visually stunning, intelligent and darkly imaginative vision that will capture your attention and not let it go.

Fun Facts

  • Bale's diet for four months before shooting apparently consisted of water, an apple and a cup of coffee a day and the occasional whiskey. Bale wanted to drop to 99 lbs but the producer refused him, fearing for his safety. He safely regained the weight for his next role - Bruce Wayne in Batman Begins.
  • Anderson and Kosar were turned down by almost every major studio in America after the screenplay was described as being "too weird".
  • Kosar is a massive fan of the band Nine Inch Nails, referencing their lead singer Trent Reznor with this film's lead character. The original screenplay even had lyrics written on the first page. Anderson, however, vetoed their music for the soundtrack.

What's not to like?

The reason I bring up the film's microscopic budget (around $5 million) is because there are moments when this shows - maybe not as much as you'd think because the film is a very well made product. In truth, it doesn't need a massive budget because the screenplay is so good - and a really good screenplay shouldn't need a huge budget. I would also have liked to see a bit more from the supporting cast - Ironside and Leigh are both disappointing and while Sharian and Sánchez-Gijon are better, we simply don't spend as much time with them as we do with what's left of Bale.

Lastly, and I admit that this is more subjective, the film's subject matter and tone make The Machinist a difficult and challenging film to watch. It's not entertaining but it excels at being a great chiller of a film, sending shivers down your spine and making you look over your shoulder more often. It plays with your mind and engages you psychologically instead of emotionally and while some viewers might enjoy the prospect, others will be turned off instead. Their loss, frankly.

Sharian, as the unsettling Ivan, adds the film's disturbing tone
Sharian, as the unsettling Ivan, adds the film's disturbing tone | Source

Should I watch it?

It won't be for everybody but this is a great example of what's possible with limited resources and a cracking script. Full of imagination, mind games and manipulation, the film really delivers with a quality mystery and satisfying conclusion that will take some time to forget. Yes, Bale's transformation is astonishing but there's more meat to this picture than his bony body. Sit back and treat yourself to a truly unsettling experience.

Great For: thriller lovers, Hitchcock fans, Bale's credentials

Not So Great For: Weight Watchers, anorexics, bulimics, scaredie cats

What else should I watch?

The two films The Machinist feels closest to are the murder mystery thriller Se7en and the psychological drama Fight Club, both directed by David Fincher. Se7en plunges head-first into every film noir cliché going and adds a few more as Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt hunt down a sadistic serial killer obsessed with the Seven Deadly Sins. Pitt pops up again in Fight Club as the unforgettable Tyler Durden who rages against capitalism alongside Edward Norton's bewildered narrator. Both Fight Club and The Machinist deal in half-truths and mixed realities and are well worth tracking down, although Fight Club has much more to offer than just that.

Of course, every thriller released these days aspires to achieve comparisons with Hitchcock but precious few do. The Master of Suspense was a true genius of his craft, able to generate fear and tension from the simplest of set-ups. Films like North By Northwest, Vertigo and Psycho are all testament to the great man's deserved reputation and influence and continue to be revered today.

© 2015 Benjamin Cox

Soap Box

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)