"The Machinist: Special Edition" Blu-ray Review
May 15, 2009 by Zach Demeter
While the film has no doubt picked up popularity since Christian Baleís explosion into the mainstream with his role as Batman, it was this film that made the public take notice of just how intensely he got into the characters he portrayed. There was no CGI involved when Bale was on screen as the ghastly thin looking Trevor Reznik, a man tortured with thoughts he cannot piece together and as a result his sleeping and eating habits are all awry. The film itself didnít make waves at the box office, but over the years itís audience has grown and what better way to continue its expansion than with an all-new Special Edition Blu-ray release, complete with a few new extras along with it.
Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) hasn't slept in a year. The shocking deterioration of his physical and mental health has made his every waking moment an unrelenting state of confusion, paranoia, guilt, anxiety and terror. His only solace from this living nightmare comes from an affectionate prostitute (Jennifer Jason Leigh). When cryptic notes turn up mysteriously in his apartment and when hallucinations of a co-worker that no one else sees causes a gruesome machine shop injury, he embarks on a journey to find out whether there is an elaborate plot to drive him mad or his fatigue has simply robbed him of reason. The more he learns, the less he wants to know.
The first time you witness The Machinist, you spend most of the time gawking at Baleís skeletal frame, pondering just what through his head to lose so much weight for the role. Reading online about it and how even the director cautioned against it, the film is a shocking example of Baleís dedication to his craft. While I canít imagine he would be ďallowedĒ to do such a thing again, The Machinist is made all the more gripping and haunting because of Baleís performance and appearance. Call it a gimmick if you want, but the visual isnít the only thing that this film has going for it.
In the vein of Memento and Donnie Darko, The Machinist is a haunting psychological film that screws with your head as much as it creeps you out; whether itís the repetition of numbers or the random appearance of something out of the ordinary, The Machinist tosses as many unique visuals at you as you might expect from a film whose sole intention it is to confuse the brain. Iíve become more and more interested in films like this, as I love the mental challenge of trying to figure a film out and while they almost always have the same kind of outcome and troubled characters in them, theyíre no less fun to watch. They grip you with the story and toss you about until you donít know what direction the film is facing. By the time the revelation is given, you begin to question what youíre watching and not only if it made sense, but if it even was logical.
And thatís really what watching these movies is all about. Trying to discover its twists, turns and keeping up with them. About halfway into these kinds of movies, however, I often just give up and wait for the blain splattering conclusion at the end. While The Machinistís ending wasnít as devastating as it may be built up for, itís none the less satisfactory. On top of Trevorís constant hallucinations and worrisome behavior, his supporting cast filled the spaces in the film that would otherwise be an empty and hallow place. Jennifer Jason Leighís role is subdued but key to the entire film and when Trevor eventually breaks down almost completely, itís her character that causes everything to come together and make sense.
As with a lot of these styles of films, it requires a couple viewings to fully appreciate it, but this is really one of the better films Iíve seen in recent years andÖman, just the physical appearance and performance by Bale is absolutely mesmerizing. Combined with the gritty and dank visuals of the film, The Machinist is certainly far from the most uplifting or smile inducing movie, but sometimes youíre just in the mood for a good mind twister and this one delivers on nearly every level. Highly Recommended.
Not only has Paramount opted to release the film on Blu-ray, but theyíve also packed on some all-new bonus features to boot. So those who own the previous DVD release, if you were tempted to upgrade at least thereís something more here than just an HD transfer. The set itself arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray case with a firmware upgrade notice insert and the disc itself (coated in the same, plain grey disc art that Paramount uses). I will give them props for using a new cover for the film, which is even more haunting looking than the old cover.
The AVC encoded 1080p transfer that this film receives is fantastic. The aforementioned dank and murky visuals of the film translate well to the format, with plenty of detail in the corners and cracks of the picture, as well as a solid amount of grain that adds grittiness to the film. The cold look of the film (once again mirrored by the new cover art) looks great on Blu-ray and while fans of the film may not find anything new about the story within the picture, watching the film in HD is nonetheless a great experience. The audio, a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix, replicates the dialogue driven film brilliantly, although there are frequent surround usage during the amped up sequences of the film, as well as machine noises that fill the room. Itís not an in-your-face mix by any means and is in fact a rather subdued mix, but it complements the film itself extremely well.
Returning from the previous DVD release we have the fantastic Commentary by director Brad Ander and The Machinist: Breaking the Rules (25:19, SD), which acts as our making-of documentary complete with cast and crew interviews. Deleted Scenes (12:05, SD) and Theatrical Trailer wrap up the old extras, while two brand new ones come up next.
First is Manifesting the Machinist (23:00, 1080p), which discusses how the story came about with interviews from the writer and director of the film as well as a few of the actors. Bale doesnít make an appearance in these new extras, but thatís fine as they focus more on the story than anything. The next new extra is The Machinist: Hiding in Plain Sight (13:56, 1080p) which profiles the tricky visuals that lend clues to the outcome of the film, something that is always interesting to me as I see what I missed.
Overall the new extras arenít earth shattering, but when combined with the new Blu-ray transfer I think this is a worthy enough upgrade for those who enjoyed the film. Highly Recommended.
The Machinist Ė Special Edition arrives on Blu-ray on May 19th.