The Machinist (Blu-ray)

Trevor Reznick (Christian Bale) hasn't slept in a year, and when we first meet him, he's in a darkened bathroom staring into a mirror looking like a man who's been to hell and back—because he has. Why is he so tormented and why can't he get any sleep?

Christian Bale has delivered exceptional performances since his childhood debut in Empire of the Sun3:10 to Yuma, The Prestige, Batman Begins, and The Dark Knight just to name a few. But his role in The Machinist may be his best yet. In order to play the lead character, he had to drop his weight down to 120 pounds—a feat he accomplished a few years later in Rescue Dawn—but in 2004, he wasn't on the A-list yet. But if The Machinist were released today, I bet he would get an Oscar nod for his performance—it's that good.

The color palette is intentionally bland in order to set the dour mood. Exterior shots are overcast and gray, and interiors are poorly lit. The black levels are strong and stable, revealing adequate shadow detail. Flesh tones are sickly and gray, but that's to be expected given the topic. It isn't the sharpest transfer I've seen, with the majority of the scenes having a softer look, but it's consistent throughout, pointing more toward the cinematography than the encode.

The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack fits the genre with a hair-raising score to add mystery and anxiety to the screenplay. The dialog is clear and intelligible, and well-placed panning effects create a wide front soundstage. The surround speakers provide eerie ambient effects and some positional cues to scare the audience, but the LFE is nearly non-existent and never rattles the room.

The bonus features include an audio commentary by the director, a couple of HD featurettes—one on the making of the film and another that explores the hints scattered through the film to help solve the mystery. Ported over from the DVD is another "making of" featurette, eight deleted scenes, and the theatrical trailer, all in standard definition.

I'm generally not a horror fan, but Bale's performance transcends my dislike of the genre. Director Brad Anderson explores the depths of Trevor's flawed character and how his sleep deprivation affects him both mentally and physically. It's disturbing yet captivating, and the dreary presentation compliments the story. Highly recommended.

Release Date: May 19, 2009
Studio: Paramount

Movie: 9/10
Picture: 8/10
Sound: 8/10

Review System

Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player

JVC DLA-RS1 projector
Stewart FireHawk screen (76.5" wide, 16:9)

Onkyo Pro PR-SC885 pre/pro
Anthem PVA-7 power amplifier
Belkin PF60 power conditioner

M&K S-150s (L, C, R)
M&K SS-150s (LS, RS, SBL, SBR)
SVS PC-Ultra subwoofer

Monoprice HDMI cables (source to pre/pro)
Best Deal analog-audio cables
PureLink HDC Fiber Optic HDMI Cable System (15 meters) from pre/pro to projector

Acoustical treatments from GIK Acoustics