Brad Anderson (USA, 1964) directed
The Darien Gap (1996)
Next Stop Wonderland (1998),
and Happy Accidents (2000).
The psychological thriller The Machinist (2004), evoking
Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel "Crime and Punishment",
is the story of a man
who slowly comes to terms with his crime. It's a puzzle that slowly makes sense
The protagonist's name,
Trevor Reznick, evokes the name of Trent Reznor, the brain behind the
Nine Inch Nails, whose album "The Downward Spiral" may be another inspiration
for the story (which is a downward spiral into madness).
The film opens with the oneric scene of Trevor, his face full of bruises, dumping a body in the sea and someone behind him asking him "Who are you?" We then see him washing his hands at home and staring at a note that says "Who are you"?
This happens either in the past or in the future because we then see him having sex with a prostitute, Stevie, and his face has no bruises. Stevie likes him, but Trevor pays and leaves.
Trevor works as a machinist. In the evening he always visits a coffee shop at
the airport. He strikes a conversation with the waitress, Maria, and leaves a big tip on the counter. Back home, he posts notes on the wall that have numbers:
he methodically records his weight (in pounds).
We see that he is reading Fyodor Dostoyevsky's novel "Crime and Punishment".
He also posts a note on the fridge to buy bleach.
One day he meets a new worker,
Ivan, who tells him that he's replacing someone who has been arrested.
Back at Stevie's place, Trevor tells her that he hasn't slept in one year.
In fact, he never sleeps. The following day at work he sees Ivan smiling at him,
gets distracted and accidentally causes an accident which severs the arm of
Back home, he writes a note to pay utilities and realizes that the previous note has been replaced by a cryptic note. At work he is summoned by his superiors who
are investigating the accident: they noticed his strange behavior. Trevor explains that he was distracted by new worker Ivan, but there is no Ivan.
Back at the airport coffe shop, Maria asks him why he drives all the way to the
airport to get a coffee, and he doesn't have an answer. Trevor, a widower, invites Maria, a widow with a child, to a date on Mother's Day.
Ivan reappears and Trevor chases him to a bar where they chat.
When Ivan goes to the bathroom, Trevor searches his wallet and finds a picture
of Ivan fishing with a coworker. Trevor now suspects that the accident was caused
by the coworker and phones him the middle of the night.
Back home, he finds that again his note about pay utilities has been replaced by the cryptic note, which now shows a man being hanged.
Trevor, Maria and her little boy spend a day at the amusement park. Trevor is disturbed by a merry-go-round. The little boy scares Trevor with an epileptic fit while they are in the haunted house, but Maria is not concerned and invites Trevor
home. He snaps though when he sees a note on her fridge that reminds him of the
cryptic note at his apartment. At home he flips through his own photo album and
we see that he has a picture of his mother and himself as a boy in front of that
merry-go-round. One day Miller comes to visit at work. Minutes later Trevor almost loses his arm in a new accident. He starts yelling at all his coworkers and looks for the picture of the coworker with Ivan to prove that they are plotting against him, but the picture is no longer in his wallet.
He gets fired. Back home, there is no electricity because he hasn't paid
utilities. The apartment stinks because something is leaking out of the fridge.
He convinces himself that Miller engineered the new accident in revenge.
Trevor confronts him at home and Miller, disgusted, throws him out.
Trevor sees again Ivan driving a red car and chases him. This time Trevor
memorizes the plate number. The only way to obtain the name and address of
the owner of the red car is to fake a "hit and run" accident and so he jumps
in front of the first car that comes by. Now his face is covered with bruises, like in the first scene. He walks into the police station and files a report,
claiming that the car that hit him was Ivan's red car. The cops check the plate
number and tell him that the owner of that red car is... Trevor himself!
The cops want to talk to him and Trevor runs away. He runs into the subway,
still chased by the cops, drops into a manhole, disappears into the sewer system.
Afraid to go home, Trevor heads to Stevie's apartment. The prostitute treats him motherly, hoping that he will stick around and will offer her a new life.
Stevie cures his wounds and is preparing a meal when he spots the picture of Ivan that disappeared from his wallet, the picture that in Trevor's mind accuses his coworkers of plotting against him. He attacks Stevie, but Stevie doesn't understand what is going on: Stevie found the picture in the money that Trevor left to her, and in any case the picture shows Ivan fishing with... Trevor himself!
Trevor refuses to listen to her and convinces himself that Ivan is Stevie's ex
boyfriend who is taking revenge on him for sleeping with her, and that Stevie is part of the conspiracy against him.
This is so convoluted and demented that Stevie kicks him out.
Trevor heads to the coffee shop and asks to see Maria, but the waitress tells him
that there is no Maria and that it's the first time he ever spoke in one year.
Trevor makes a scene and drives away. He sees
Ivan with Maria's child drive by and follow him. Trevor sees them enter his own apartment. Trevor confronts Ivan, who has a knife and tells him that the child is dead. Trevor kills Ivan with the knife. The child, however, is not there.
The stinking smell comes from all the food that has been going bad in the fridge.
Trevor rolls Ivan's body into a carpet, loads him in his truck, drives to the ocean and dumps the body (the first scene). Except that we now realize that there's nobody inside the carpet and we see the person who asks him "Who are you?" It is... Ivan himself, standing behind him.
Back home finally Trevor remembers who he is. He remembers how one year earlier,
near the airport,
he accidentally drove his red car over a child who was crossing the street, and remembers
seeing the mother screaming, and he drove away. That's the real "hit and run" accident.
That's why he hasn't slept in a year.
He can now fill the missing letters on the mysterious hangman note, the six letters of the word "killer".
He packs his things and surrenders to the police, still seeing Ivan next to him
wherever he goes.
He is taken to a jail and he can finally sleep.
Session 9 (2001),
7th Street (2010),
The Call (2013),
Stonehearst Asylum (2014),