The story behind The Machinist is Trevor Reznik, a man who hasn't slept in a year and is psychologically insane, as a result of his insomnia. Trevor begins seeing a man who appears in his visions everywhere he goes, and is also driven even further to madness when Trevor discovers strange messages at his house. Now, Trent will have to figure out what the man wants and what the post-it notes mean while struggling to regain his sanity.
My first impression of this movie was that it would just be a horror movie based on what I've seen in the trailer from its unsettling and dark nature. But, after watching the trailer for a second time and viewing the movie, I felt really mixed about how the story ended and the big twist that resulted in what really happened. It took me some time to figure out what the hell happened with Trevor's character and the series of events that were seen through his perception, and when I watched the movie again, I really understood what the movie was aiming for.
Christian Bale is still a good actor, but this is one of his movies where he really shines outside of his Batman persona. Bale is also willing to go method for his roles (He lost so much weight in the movie that the crew behind this movie were concerned for his health) and really disturb audiences with his intensity. Christian Bale should still look into comedy as well, though. (Aside from American Hustle) The rest of the supporting cast I really didn't care about except for Jennifer Jason Leigh (Who really wasn't half bad in the movie, and portrayed a likable character) and John Sharian (His sinister attitude and mannerisms were really intimidating).
The directing and cinematography are excellent. I give plenty of credit to Brad Anderson for really putting 110% effort into carefully planning out the story and having the supporting cast become very unsettled by Christian Bale's character. Anderson even uses horror transition shots (Blood in the refrigerator, unexpected scares, focus on the actors's expressions and flashbacks throughout the movie). As for the cinematography, the track-in shots, panning movements, perspectives and angles of what Trevor sees through his eyes and how slowly he delves into insanity.
The story is also told very carefully, without giving much away. The major twist of Trevor suffering from grief over a hit-and-run accident that resulted in his insomnia may sound cliched, but still one of the best haunting twists ever placed in a movie. The twist is subtle, but if you watch the movie two or three times, you'll eventually understand what the story really is about. The process of Trevor falling into madness throughout the movie expresses his vulnerability and the struggles of bringing back his sanity is enough to convince me that a thriller or movie similar to The Machinist should give filmmakers and writers an idea of how a twist is done well.
If you haven't checked The Machinist out, I strongly recommend that you do so - if you can handle the film's disturbing psychological nature.