The Red Right Hand
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THE MACHINIST
If He Were Any Thinner, He Wouldn't Exist

Director
Brad Anderson
Starring
Christian Bale
Jennifer Jason Leigh
Aitana Sánchez-Gijón
John Sharian

Where in the hell do I start with this? Last November I saw a trailer online for this film, from the get-go it really caught my attention, sounding truly original and potentially ingenious. Not two hours ago I walked away from a film that I could honestly say astounded me beyond all possible reason. What I originally thought to be a quirky notion for a script has turned out to be a cinematic masterpiece. The first shot is from the outside of Trevor (forgive me if I accidentally type Trent Reznor) Reznik's [Bale] apartment. There's a lot of huffing as the image comes to focus. For the astute ones in the audience it will be clear that Reznik's rolled up a body in his rug. He gets in his car and drives to the sea, as a torch shines in the not-too-far distance Reznik begins to panic and hurls the rug which lands flat on the bank. Getting more nervous and despairingly frantic he kicks the rug down the slope which proceeds to unfold, the look on his (scrawny, beaten-up) face is one of complete shock and that moment he turns to have the torch shining in his eye and a voice saying, "Who are you?" This is unanswered as we're shown a scene of Reznik washing his hands with bleach. Then we cut back to some time -it's really difficult to get an actual time frame for this film- earlier, a month maybe, to see Reznik working on machine parts (hence the title).

I'm not going to simply list the film play-by-play (although I'd love to, simply to relive it) instead I'm going to discuss some things that I found exceptional. First of all, the music. From the start you can tell something's different. Unlike modern films there was no vocalised accompanying 'hit,' nor was there any popular music of any kind, not even orchestral pieces, instead a solitary oboe or clarinet would play eerily, setting the mood perfectly, making you feel something was missing or out of place, also aiding to the time displacement effect. One of the biggest things you see in this film is a significant change in the time line, things resemble the 50's, such as the furniture, the clothes, but there are many cars that range from the 70's to this decade. This may sound ridiculous to you because you see those things everyday, a mixture of products from particular dates in the past, right? Well this IS different because they seem to appear at certain times together, ie. in places he would seem to be driving through a 2000 suburban area in the Pacific Northwest, then he would be sharing a glass of wine in house that screamed Post-WWII, even the place he works has the greys and blacks of the 1980's [the industrial side to it all, not Spandau Ballet and stuff]. You see, without me wanting to give away too much of the plot, time is a very important and strategic element to the story. Things from memories are filmed through a hazy-lens with vibrant colours, while his current goings-on are black and white with spot-shading on objects from his past, ie. the red Pontiac that's mysteriously following him.

No doubt that's only confused you. Well you have my apologies, I'm only wording things the way I am to save giving away the plot. Things really kick off in the story when a colleague, Miller [Michael Ironside] gets his sleeve caught in one of the machines he's repairing -which thanks to Reznik's negligence is activated- followed by a well-filmed but gruesome depiction of a man loosing his left arm. The workers no longer trust Reznik, his employers think he's on drugs and Reznik himself begins to become paranoid, seeing plots and schemes lurking everywhere. Miller looses his left arm, this becomes key because it sparks off memories for Reznik, feelings of guilt and avoided responsibility, the 'left' theme comes back on a few occasions. Which leads us to Ivan [Sharian], a co-worker who was distracting Reznik – this caused him to stumble and trip the activation switch, dragging Miller into the machine he was repairing. Reznik also visits a prostitute regularly, Stevie [Leigh] -odd name for a girl, I know- who has confessed that she would gladly give up selling herself and settle down with him. She acts as his anchor and an interesting contrast to the waitress he sees at the airport, Marie [Sánchez-Gijón]. The significant roles these two women play and the way they are woven into the story is mesmerising. That all sounds a bit bunchy and non-descript, again I'm sorry but everyone plays such a key role that to say anything would possibly illuminate their true purpose in the film/Reznik's life.

I won't say much else other than this movie is absolutely breath-taking. If I had the chance to write and direct any film of my choosing it would have to be this one. Other than the fact that actors and actresses involved all did superb jobs, but also the story is so sound and original that it would be far too good to pass up. The story of a thin, insomnia-stricken man who doesn't seem to connect with work and has a love life which isn't exactly the best or the norm... So many times I saw myself. I also have a deep respect for Bale's ability and dedication to this role. If you've not seen American Psycho, I advise you do. Bale stars as Patrick Bateman, a self-obsessed man who has built-up his body to perfection and of course he's the new batman too. Do you have any idea how large this guy is? Then to see him in a film where he weighs no more than 119 pounds is spectacular. The first thing you worry about is Bale/Reznik's health, he looks like he's going to die right there on screen, you can also tell that he's an insomniac from the way he talks, filling sentences with mumbles, stutters and slurred words as the muscles in his jaw begin to go numb. So congratulations to Anderson, Bale and the writer [Scott Kosar] for delivering a true masterpiece. I've discovered that the new release, Amityville Horror is also written by Kosar, all I can hope is that some of the genius he has poured into this will carry on in his following works and that we can then expect to see great things in this man's future.

Release Date:
14 April 2005

The Scene To Look Out For:
Marie offers to take Reznik out to the carnival with her son Nicholas [Matthew Romero Moore]. Whilst there Nicholas takes Reznik on the Route 666 ride which starts off as a creepy but fairly lame ghost ride. As they carry on through it gets worse and more sordid until Reznik implores the child to take the 'safe' route and to the exit, which of course he doesn't. The whole scene just shows Reznik acting normal and being a good friend/father figure -which is unexpected considering what we've seen of him so far- but then he starts to go a little odd and the scene takes a nose dive into madness - which we saw was coming and welcomed.

Notable Characters:
The only real character is Reznik, everyone else is an extension of him or his perception of them, so it's quite difficult to place a notable favourite. That and Reznik is such a deep character being well-acted by Bale.

Highlighted Quote:
"A little guilt can go a long way"

In A Few Words:
"Imagine Alfred Hitchcock & Chuck Palahniuk collaborating on a film - divine"

Total Score:
10/10


Matthew Stogdon