The Machinist (also known as El Maquinista) is a 2004 English-language Spanish psychological thriller film directed by Brad Anderson and written by Scott Kosar.
The film stars Christian Bale and features Jennifer Jason Leigh, John Sharian, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, and Michael Ironside. It was produced by the Fantastic Factory label of Filmax and Castelao Productions.
Trevor Reznik (Christian Bale) is a machinist who has had chronic insomnia for a year and has lost weight to the point where he has become severely emaciated. His alarming appearance and strange behavior cause his co-workers to keep away; they eventually turn on him after he is involved in a machine accident that costs his colleague Miller (Michael Ironside) his left arm. Trevor, who was distracted by an unfamiliar co-worker named Ivan (John Sharian), 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 (Jennifer Jason Leigh), a prostitute who develops genuine affection for him, or in the company of Maria (Aitana Sánchez-Gijón), a waitress at the airport diner where he spends many of his nights.
Trevor is haunted by brief flashes of recurring imagery, and everyday objects take on a menacing air, like the 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 one of Trevor's co-workers which he 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 petrol 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 and not Ivan but Trevor refuses to look at it. Following a short, intense bout of name-calling 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.
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 and ultimately kills 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 come 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 hallucination.
The scene then returns to one which 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 - alive - 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. 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 to police headquarters, 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 he intends to go to sleep, then appears to fall asleep successfully for the first time in a year.
Cast overview, first billed only:
Christian Bale ... Trevor Reznik
Jennifer Jason Leigh ... Stevie
Aitana Sánchez-Gijón ... Marie
John Sharian ... Ivan
Michael Ironside ... Miller
Lawrence Gilliard Jr. ... Jackson (as Larry Gilliard)
Reg E. Cathey ... Jones
Anna Massey ... Mrs. Shrike
Matthew Romero Moore ... Nicholas (as Matthew Romero)
Robert Long ... Supervisor Furman
Colin Stinton ... Inspector Rogers
Craig Stevenson ... Tucker
Ferran Lahoz ... Gonzales
Jeremy Xido ... Evangelisti
Norman Bell ... DMV Clerk
Directed by Brad Anderson
Produced by Julio Fernandez
Written by Scott Kosar