The Machinist appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. Though it presented mostly strong visuals, too many concerns cropped up to make this a consistently positive transfer.
No problems with sharpness occurred, however. At all times, the movie remained nicely detailed and distinctive. I noticed virtually no signs of softness. Jagged edges and shimmering didn’t interfere with matters, but edge haloes were apparent too frequently. In addition, the movie showed a surprising number of source flaws for a modern flick. I saw some specks and other blotches. These weren’t overwhelming, but they were more substantial than I’d expect.
One of the most desaturated films I’ve seen in quite a while, Machinist presented virtually no bright hues. Really, the only shots that went with anything more prominent that blue-grays were those that featured Ivan; the transfer offered some light reds during those scenes. Otherwise, this was a tremendously subdued palette. The movie replicated the visual design just fine, and blacks were acceptably deep and firm. Shadows could be somewhat thick, but they usually came across with good definition. Machinist lost most of its points due to edge enhancement and source flaws, but it remained generally good.
I didn’t expect much from the Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack of The Machinist, but it proved surprisingly involving. While it never went hog wild, the soundfield opened matters up well. Shots at the airport diner or in the machine shop were the best developed, as they demonstrated nice use of all the speakers. Other scenes usually stayed with more general ambience, and they broadened the spectrum smoothly. Elements blended together neatly and moved across the channels with solid clarity and definition.
Across the board, audio quality appeared positive. Speech always stayed natural and concise, with no edginess or brittle tones. Music was dynamic and rich. The score offered tight highs and well-developed lows. Effects also came across as accurate and cleanly defined. Not much about the mix required a lot from my system, but it all came together so well that I thought it merited a “B+”.
When we head to the DVD’s extras, we open with an audio commentary from director Brad Anderson. He presents a very good running, screen-specific discussion. Two subjects dominate: location issues and story concerns. In the former category, Anderson tells us why they shot in Spain and all of the pros and cons of doing so. He also talks about adapting locations and trying to make the area look like the US. As for story, we learn nice insight into the themes and characters, and Anderson also tosses out many good trivia notes about things we might otherwise miss. He relates many influences, inspirations and references evident in the flick.
In addition to those areas, Anderson tells us a little about the cast and crew, Bale’s weight loss and approach to the role, the film’s look and cinematographic issues, and general production topics. Anderson maintains a light and lively demeanor despite the film’s darkness, and he makes this a winning and informative commentary.
Next comes a 25-minute and 18-second documentary called The Machinist: Breaking the Rules. It mixes movie shots, behind the scenes elements, and interviews with Anderson, writer Scott Kossar, producer Julio Fernandez, executive producers Antonia Nava and Carlos Fernandez, production designer Alain Bainee, director of photography Xavi Gimenez, and actors Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Aitana Sanchez Gijon. They discuss what Kossar wanted to do with the story and why Anderson hooked onto it, the weight loss issue, problems with financing, filming in Barcelona and location challenges, casting and the characters, stunts and effects, and various problems on the set.
Because Anderson’s commentary covers so much, we really don’t learn a ton here. However, the footage from the production helps make this show worth a look. We get to see many of the things Anderson discusses and also get a few different perspectives on things. It stands as a good little documentary despite some redundancy.
Eight Deleted Scenes last a total of 12 minutes and 25 seconds. Most of these provide more clues to the mystery. I think they tip off viewers more than necessary, but that might be a hindsight thing; it’s easier to see how they’d telegraph points once you know how the movie ends. “Trevor Confronts Mother at Cemetery” is probably the most interesting, but not in a good way; it turns a little maudlin. None of the other clips stand out as particularly strong.
A few of the scenes include optional commentary from Anderson. We get his remarks for “Trevor Tries to Skip Town” and “Trevor Confronts Mother at Cemetery”. He tells us his original intentions for the scenes and why he cut them. His remarks prove revealing.
In addition to the trailer for Machinist, the DVD opens with a few ads. We get promos for Mean Creek, Enduring Love, Schultze Gets the Blues and Suspect Zero.
Perhaps destined to be remembered for its lead actor’s extreme weight loss, The Machinist deserves a better fate than that. It provides a consistently intriguing mystery and psychological thriller abetted by strong acting and a creepy tone. The DVD offers decent picture with surprisingly effective audio and a short but effective set of extras. Though not for everyone, I recommend The Machinist to fans of dark dramas.