The Machinist Blu-ray Review

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by Chris McEneany Jul 25, 2008 at 12:00 AM

  • Movies review

    The Machinist Blu-ray Review
    SRP: £16.99


    This is a tremendous transfer indeed. Coming in with a terrific 2.35:1 1080p image, encoded via VC-1, this disc from German label e-m-s looks amazing. Perfectly capturing the bleached-out effect of Trevor's colour-drained and sterile world, it is also able to handle the high degree of contrast changes with ease, seeing that much of the film shimmers with a cool, clinical blue that reveals the stark detachment of its main character. Transitions between the two extremes of contrast are impeccably staged too, with great shifts from hot, hazy daylight to inky black night-times. Skin-tones are necessarily pallid and drawn, but wholly convincing, all the same. Trevor's parchment-like flesh is almost translucent, his harrowing visage so clearly chiselled that it seems to poke out of the screen. Close-ups of faces, hands and eyes reveal incredible detail. The cuts and stubble on Reznik's gaunt visage are ultra-high in delineation. And check out the shot of his face as it is illuminated by a torch-beam for evidence of this clarity and spot-on contrast. Only the funfair is allowed anything bright and colourful, however, with lots of grim and gory props and paintwork to catch the eye. But, elsewhere in the movie when other colours are allowed to intrude - Ivan's red Pontiac Firebird for example - it seems bludgeoned by the coldness that surrounds it. I will say that the fiery Pontiac does look at bit more accentuated here than on previous editions, though, and probably much more akin to how it was supposed to look - a gleaming portent of guilt and shame in an otherwise shabby world.

    The black levels on the SD versions were already impeccable, but they reach a new level of intensity and depth on BD. Incredibly rich and deep, they create a wealth of atmosphere within even the most minimal of scenes and, with quick comparisons made to previous versions, nothing is lost within them, no detail crushed. Check out any of moment of Trevor creeping about his apartment and, best of all, just look at the awesome depth and intricate shadow-play they bestow upon the machine-shop. Wonderfully evocative. The level of detail on display is staggering too. Again, the machine-shop scoops the first prize here - look at the gleam of the equipment, the grease, the metal shavings and the tiny wisps of steam. In 1080p, the imagery here goes even further than the blisteringly sharp SD incarnation, with the gleam, the tools and the filings so much more acutely rendered. But look at Trevor's body in the light - the horrible Y-shape of his backbone and shoulders as he bends down to scrub the tiles - and the great scoops from his face. The wart beside his eye and the curious scar beneath the same eye so much more apparent than ever before.

    Obviously, the grain is intentional and doesn't hinder the clarity of the image one iota, although I have to say that this print does seem to show up more tiny elements of damage here and there - flecks appearing in Trevor's side-mirror when he first meets Ivan, for example - than I have noticed before. I wasn't bothered by the minimal edge-enhancement that was visible on the SD and, if anything, the dregs of it that are still there are even less noticeable - although it does tend to stick out around the letters and the picture on the Post-It notes and around silhouetted figures. Plus there are no artefacts or blocking within the vast depths of black, making this virtually textbook stuff. However, there are one or two elements when noise is apparent when seen against paler backgrounds - on the wall behind Trevor as he walks to his pick-up beneath a tremendously glowering sky, for instance.

    Hi-def three-dimensionality is certainly in evidence with any of the street scenes or Trevor's antics at the beach. In fact, the latter moments with him literally popping out of vast fields of blackness look amazing. But, whilst this is no “I, Robot”, in the scheme of things, the image is never once flat or soft, and looks nicely alive throughout. So, whilst this transfer does offer a substantially rewarding upgrade over prior editions, it does throw in some slight problems as well that the 1080p enhancement may have accentuated. But, all in all, The Machinist looks fine in high definition and will certainly be the version that I will watch in future. A strong 8 out of 10.

    The Machinist Picture


    Please note that this German disc defaults to German subtitles when the English DTS-HD 5.1 option is activated and they will have to be switched off manually.

    Having heard The Machinist in both DD and DTS 5.1 flavours - and finding that there really wasn't that much between them in anything other than strength - it comes as a treat to now here the film with a lossless DTS-HD mix (at 48 kHz). There is nothing radically different on offer - no extra bombast or previously unnoticed nuance - but the whole soundscape is much more detailed, enveloping and clear. Although the still predominantly frontal-based, the track is nevertheless far more engaged with rear support than on previous versions. The score bleeds out behind you with more surety and is possessed of a warmth and vitality that easily exceeds the original DD and DTS tracks. That Theremin-slide is simply mesmerising in its eerie, wavering pitch and occasionally you feel as though your eyes could follow its peaks and troughs through the air. The rest of the score sounds detailed and driven, a lattice-work of aural menace that floats about the room, adding a spectral quality that the sound design fully embraces.

    Constantly clear and driving, the rising tempo of the dialogue is always well-maintained and steered. The rears are utilised often but never to any great level of ear-bashing intensity. Predominantly reserved for ambience, they lash out only occasionally with a nicely directed voice or knock at the door. That said though, listen out for the terrific humming and throbbing of the machinery in Trevor's workplace that literally turns your living room in an industrial shop floor, and Trevor's midnight coffees at the airport café allow for some nice plane engines to soar about behind you.

    Smaller things like the dripping of water are well produced too and moments when ambient sound has been removed to allow a dreamy rendition of the score to ooze over the top are great. This is an active track that is far more subtle in its approach, meaning that the atmosphere is surreal, but authentic, and that when the jolts come they are treated with the utmost respect and marvellously delivered.

    In my opinion, the lossless track represents a clear upgrade over the previous audio mixes, with greater reach and a deeper, more natural sound.

    The Machinist Sound


    Sadly as thin on bonuses as Trevor is on his bones, this German release ditches all the extras that could be found on either of the US or UK SD releases, which had everything from a Brad Anderson commentary track and deleted scenes to a making of and even some spooky little Post-It notes to evoke the menace from the film. All this edition gets are BD trailers for a stack of other releases including Lady Vengeance, Running Scared, Monster and Until Death.

    A disappointment.

    The Machinist Extras


    The Machinist is a wonderful film, directed with cool precision and firmly anchored by a nerve-twitch performance from an actor at the top of his game. Christian Bale always gives 110 % (though probably a lot more of himself here) and simply excels this time around. Despite his shrunken form, there is an immense depth to his characterisation, the harrowing destruction of his mind proving far more shocking than the physical wasting shown visually. The complex scenario plays out with a cerebral dexterity that mimics the fragmenting of poor Trevor's mind, and the journey that we, and he, undertake may be uncomfortable and unsettling but is still, ultimately, a deeply rewarding experience.

    I know that some people take exception to high scores being dished out (this would have gained a 10 from me if they'd found a way around the chase and the sewer sequences), but The Machinist, in my opinion ranks as one of the best psychological thrillers ever made, and thoroughly deserves its score here for all of the reasons I have mentioned throughout the review. It is immediate, engrossing and thought-provoking, its themes taking root within you and then sitting there, ticking like a time-bomb. Although dealing with disturbing issues, the viewer never feels alienated or bound-over to form an opinion - Trevor is no more, or less, flawed than any of us. It is a nightmare and a tragedy, yet it bubbles with energy, sucking you into its warped mystery with stylish ease. Cult classic is stamped all over it and the film is definitely worth re-visiting time, and again.

    This German Blu-ray release shears away all the extras from the R1 and R2 SD editions and, as such, comes up severely short in comparison. The enhanced AV quality, however, is something for hardcore-fans to consider ... although it may still be worth waiting for a fully-fledged US or UK release which would, I'm sure, keep hold of the extra features. For now, with Bale riding high as The Dark Knight, this is a terrific reminder of how just talented and versatile he really is.

    Suggested retail price when reviewed: £16.99

    The Rundown



    Picture Quality


    Sound Quality






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