Friday, January 28, 2011

The Machinist. Eh.

Sooo. . . the Machinist-- I grabbed this from the library since I've been wanting to see it since it came out. I remembered reading all the reviews and the articles about Christian Bale dropping like 50% of his body weight-- which, by the way, he's a total nutter, right? I mean, dedicated? On a Daniel Day-Lewis scale?-- though he's much more subtle actor than Daniel D-L.

This movie was fine; it was okay. I was expecting something on the level of Momento, in terms of the mindfuck/creative narrative, and something on the level of Kontroll in its treatment of mindfuck/insomnia and the surreal elements that come from such things. It does deliver on the atmosphere and look that those two expectations would promise; if this movie did one thing well, it was mood. In fact, halfway through, we paused it to put our dishes in the kitchen or something and I looked out and there was a green jeep-thing parked in front of our house with a plastic-wrapped Christmas tree on top of it. Which is weird at the end of January but mega-creepy if you're watching a creepy movie at the same time. So it was a mood that sticks to you while you're watching the film.

Throughout the film there are some nice visual hints-- the cigarette lighter in the car and the clock at 1:30 were good notes-- and the parts of Christian Bale's character cleaning things, included his bare hands, with some hard-core chemicals (lye, bleach) adds to the themes of destructive absolution that, it turns out, make up the core of the story.

Which is part of my quibble. By the end of the film, the reveal felt like too much all at once mostly because there was just one answer for all the little things, and the sense of mystery-- the atmosphere, the visuals, the paranoia-- didn't have the impact that would have made this a film that lingers. Granted, it all makes sense, and the fable-like arc of repressed memories and self-inflicted doppelgangers is something I like in theory, but the ending, much like in the film's referenced-Crime & Punishment, doesn't feel like something that is necessarily built up to, despite the constant baby step hints we get throughout (again, the cigarette lighter, for example), but instead is dropped in our lap all of a sudden, a big huge reference at the end that then simply inspires a game of who-can-spot-all-the-hints in retrospect, that isn't as satisfying as the build-up of so many hints would suggest.

The other part that brought the film down was that before the ending, there were certain parts that were clearly in his mind. Christian Bale's character becomes convinced of a conspiracy against him after he is the inadvertent cause of a gruesome accident; unfortunately, the film makes it immediately clear that this is a product of his exhaustion and paranoia, rather than keeping it a matter for the audience's speculation for any amount of time. There wasn't that unsettling uncertainty that a film like, say, Shutter Island, had (in spades-- my problem with Shutter Island is that they never give a statement about the film's reality--what was fake; what was real-- something I have a problem with on a theoretic and narrative level.) The Machinist does keep some of those aspects in question until the end, but not as a whole, which seems a missed opportunity.

No comments:


© New Blogger Templates | Webtalks