To understand what a great actor Christian Bale is, forget about Batman and watch American Psycho. Then watch a comedy to reset your mood, and then go right back to the dark spaces with The Machinist (2004). It is a great movie with an extraordinary performance by Bale. I can’t add much to the review by Stephen Holden of The Times:
Christian Bale’s 63-pound weight loss for his role in “The Machinist” may take the cake (or is it a diet wafer?) as an example of an actor’s starving for his art. To play Trevor Reznik, the skeletal insomniac who stalks through this bleak psychological thriller, this buff star of “American Psycho” reduced himself to a walking 120-pound cadaver.
“The Machinist” may be an expertly manipulated exercise in psychological horror, but that’s all it is. Don’t look for the kind of metaphoric weight you’d find in a movie by David Lynch or David Fincher. As Trevor’s world fragments and closes in, and friends turn into enemies, the pieces of his decomposing mind slowly come together to finish the story. Not until the very last moment do they snap into a completed puzzle that’s as tight as a steel trap.
Before watching this movie, I was unaware that Bale had slimmed down to do the role, and was unsure what I was seeing — it was such an almost otherworldly, Holocaust-like look I thought it might be special effects. Bale received no recognition from the Academy for his work in The Machinist, and that’s a shame. This is a worthwhile and memorable film which deserves some accolades.
* * *
Comparison Notes: Recommended: Raging Bull, Synecdoche, New York, Secret Window, Mulholland Dr., Being John Malkovich, Inland Empire, Fight Club; Not Recommended: Memento; Unknown: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind