The Machinist

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The Machinist
The Machinist poster.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Brad Anderson
Produced by Carlos Fernández
Julio Fernández
Antonia Nava
Written by Scott Kosar
Starring Christian Bale
Music by Roque Baños
Cinematography Xavi Giménez
Editing by Luis de la Madrid
Studio Filmax Entertainment
Canal+ España
Distributed by Paramount Vantage
Release dates
  • 18 January 2004 (2004-01-18) (Sundance)
  • 17 December 2004 (2004-12-17) (Spain)
Running time 101 minutes[1]
Country Spain
Language English
Budget $5 million
Box office $8,203,235

The Machinist is a 2004 Spanish psychological thriller film in English language directed by Brad Anderson and written by Scott Kosar. The film stars Christian Bale with Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Sharian, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, and Michael Ironside.


Trevor Reznik is a machinist with severe insomnia which aids him in becoming increasingly emaciated. His alarming appearance and strange behavior cause his co-workers to keep away. Eventually they turn on him after he is involved in a machine accident that causes his colleague Miller to lose his left arm. Trevor, who was distracted by an unfamiliar co-worker named Ivan, bears the blame for the accident. No one at the factory knows of Ivan and there are no records of him as an employee. Trevor seems to find peace only in the arms of Stevie, a prostitute who develops genuine affection for him, or in the company of Maria, a waitress at the airport diner where he spends many of his sleepless nights.

Trevor is haunted by brief flashes of recurring imagery, and everyday objects take on a menacing air, like a car cigarette lighter. A mysterious series of post-it notes that appear on his refrigerator depict a game of hangman; these vaguely threatening incidents send Trevor further into paranoia. He nevertheless attempts to establish a tentative romantic relationship with Maria. Meeting her at an amusement park, Trevor accompanies her son Nicholas on a grotesque funhouse ride called "Route 666", whose flashing lights cause the boy to suffer an epileptic seizure.

Trevor is no longer able to think clearly and begins to suspect that the bizarre events in his life are a concerted effort to drive him insane. These ideas are fed to him in small random clues. One of them takes the form of a picture of Ivan fishing with Reynolds, one of Trevor's co-workers, which Trevor discovers in Ivan's wallet when it's momentarily left behind in a pub. Another near-accident at work causes Trevor to lash out in rage at his co-workers and as a result he is immediately fired. Growing increasingly distracted and alienated, Trevor forgets to pay his utility bills and his electricity is disconnected. A dark, viscous liquid begins trickling out of the freezer, eventually coating the refrigerator door with streaks of what appears to be blood.

After several unsuccessful attempts at confronting Ivan, Trevor tries to trace him through his license plate. He follows Ivan's car to read its license plate just before his gasoline runs out. When a DMV clerk insists that he cannot release personal information unless a crime has been committed, Trevor throws himself in front of a car in order to accuse Ivan of committing a hit and run. After filing a police report with Ivan's plate number on it, the battered Trevor is dumbfounded when the investigator tells him that the car in question is his own; Trevor reported the vehicle destroyed in a wreck one year ago. He runs from the policemen and goes to see Stevie, who clothes and washes him. But then Trevor finds the fishing picture of Ivan and Reynolds now framed in her home and accuses her of conspiring against him. Stevie is confused and says the picture is of Reynolds and him, not Ivan, but Trevor refuses to look at it. Following a short, intense verbal conflict Trevor is thrown out. He goes to find solace at the airport diner, but when he asks about Maria, an unfamiliar waitress tells him they never had an employee there by that name — the waitress says she has served Trevor every day for a year, without him saying much.

In the film's climax, Trevor sees Ivan take Nicholas, who appears to have been kidnapped, into Trevor's apartment. Fearing the worst, Trevor sneaks inside. Nicholas is nowhere to be seen and does not respond to Trevor's calls. Trevor confronts Ivan in the bathroom and asks him what he has done with Nicholas. Trevor struggles with Ivan and in the struggle thinks he has killed Ivan. He then flings open the shower curtain, expecting to see Nicholas' dead body, but the bathtub is empty. He goes to his refrigerator and opens it to find rotting fish and other spoiled foods tumbling out. His mind then flashes back to the fishing photo, which now shows a heavier, healthier Trevor standing near his co-worker Reynolds, just as Stevie claimed. Ivan was never in the photo; it was all a part of Trevor's delusion.

The scene then returns to one that occurred during the opening credit roll, in which Trevor tries to dispose of someone's corpse (presumably Ivan's), rolling it in a rug and struggling to cast it into the ocean. When the rug unravels, there is nothing inside. Ivan — as alive as ever — appears holding a flashlight and laughing. Trevor, suddenly home again and staring at himself in a mirror, begins to repeat "I know who you are". He then recalls his own role in a hit-and-run accident a year earlier, in which he ran over and killed a boy identical to Nicholas after taking his eyes off the road for a moment to use the car's cigarette lighter. The boy's mother, whom he later fantasizes as Maria the waitress, was at the scene; Trevor decided to drive away. The resulting guilt became the deep-seated cause of his insomnia. He fills in the missing letters for the hangman game on his refrigerator to spell "killer".

Upon recovering this deeply repressed memory, he briefly considers going to the airport and escaping. Instead, he drives downtown to the police headquarters; this signifies his "Road to Salvation", a reoccurring theme of choosing paths which appears in the film. He is accompanied by an encouraging but silent Ivan, who bids him an approving farewell from outside the station. At the police station's front desk, Trevor confesses to his hit and run. Two police officers escort Trevor to a cell, where he states that he intends to go to sleep, and proceeds to do so for the first time in a year.



Bale lost more than 27 kilograms (60 lb) for his role.

Despite its setting in a city in California, the film was shot in its entirety in and near Barcelona, Spain. It was produced by the Fantastic Factory label of Filmax and Castelao Productions.

Christian Bale starved himself for over four months prior to filming, as his character needed to look drastically thin. Allegedly, his eating consisted of one cup of black unsweetened coffee and an apple or can of tuna each day (approximately 55-260 calories).[2] According to the DVD commentary, he lost 62 pounds (28 kg), reducing his body mass to 120 pounds (54 kg). Bale wanted to go down to 99 pounds (45 kg), but the filmmakers would not let him due to health concerns. He later regained the mass, plus an additional 60 pounds (27 kg)[citation needed] through weightlifting and proper eating, in preparation for his role in Batman Begins.

Brad Anderson hurt his back during filming and directed much of the film while lying on a gurney.[3]


The name Trevor Reznik is derived from Trent Reznor, the founder and primary creative force behind the industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails, and the original script had NIN lyrics on the first page.[3] Other NIN tributes include the reversed N on the poster and early press articles describing Reznik as experiencing a downward spiral.

However, the strongest literary influence is the Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky. In the DVD commentary, writer Scott Kosar states that he was influenced by Dostoyevsky's The Double.


The Machinist was well received by critics. Review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports that 77% of 141 critics' reviews were positive; the consensus states: "Brad Anderson's dark psychological thriller about a sleepless factory worker is elevated by Christian Bale's astonishingly committed performance."[4]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun Times awarded the film three stars out of four, stating "The director Brad Anderson, working from a screenplay by Scott Kosar, wants to convey a state of mind, and he and Bale do that with disturbing effectiveness."[5]


  1. ^ "THE MACHINIST (15)". Tartan Films. British Board of Film Classification. 17 November 2004. Retrieved 12 February 2014. 
  2. ^ Bracchi, Paul (22 July 2008). "Christian Bale Boy circus star 13". The Daily Mail (London). 
  3. ^ a b Fischer, Russ (2004-10-13). "Interview: Brad Anderson". Chud. Retrieved 13 October 2006. 
  4. ^ "The Machinist – Rotten Tomatoes". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 26, 2012. 
  5. ^ Ebert, Roger. "The Machinist :: :: Reviews". Retrieved September 26, 2012. 

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