The Machinist

Recommended with caution. This is a great moral tale about guilt and consequences of sin. It does have a dark “arthouse” edge but it has an ultimately redeeming moral to it. My mantra is that thrillers like this are among the strongest lights of morality in a postmodern world that denies absolute morality and guilt. Christian Bale wins the award for the most extreme commitment to acting because he let his body shrink to a concentration camp victim skeleton of malnutrition in depicting a man whose guilt over his past consumes him and breaks his life apart. Not only does it break apart his own life, but hurts others as well. He can’t eat, hasn’t slept in a year, and can only buy sex from a prostitute because he cannot achieve true intimacy with anyone. He becomes paranoid that people are out to get him and has confusing perceptions of reality. He is haunted by his conscience in the form of a guy who no one else sees, and the machinist tries to kill – He’s trying to kill his conscience. His crime lies in not accepting responsibility or consequences of his own mistake in an accident that led to a death. It could be argued that this is a bit weak because the hero’s ghost is not a deliberate evil on his part, but an accident. But on the other hand, it can be more universal because he is still avoiding his responsibility for hurting others, he is running not from a crime, but his responsibility in an accident – which becomes a crime. That makes him more of an Everyman that we can all relate to. He’s not a deliberate criminal, but a normal guy with a criminal spirit. Hmmmm. Sounds to me like Total Depravity. Brad Anderson also wrote and directed Session 9, which is another EXCELLENT SCARY thriller about self-deception and suppression of evil in the soul. The Machinist is a great moral fable on par with Se7en, The Addiction, Phone Booth and Collateral. I find it not coincidental that the movie poster has the artistic shadow of a crucifix over the main character. I only pray it comes from the writer’s own worldview reflecting the origin of this notion of conscience and guilt.

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