I was mostly interested in The Machinist because Christian Bale is good, he's obviously gone to extreme lengths for the movie, and it's billed as the arty sort of movie that makes me feel superior for having seen it.
Turns out, The Machinist is like Sarah Plain and Tall if Jacob had sent Sarah back home for being too plain and tall. I left the theater feeling unsettled, like maybe I'd been cheated or made a fool of. If one can't root for the hero, or wish the villain ill, and one doesn't find that out until the end, then the whole experience of identifying with the movie turns into a betrayal. It wasn't what I was expecting. It didn't follow the formula, but had formulaic elements.
Despite all this complaining, I think I enjoyed myself. I like figuring out what's going on. Afterward, I was thinking about Trevor Reznik reading Dostoevsky (The Idiot), and getting a kick out of thinking that I understand at least a little bit why that prop was chosen (an author with a reputation for writing about guilt). Then thinking about the Dostoevsky novel I read in junior high (The Brothers Karamazov), I was lead to think about responsibility and systemic injustice and changing the system and martyrs and hysteria. All in all, it was a stimulating movie. Yeah, I was duped, but I still get to feel smart ''cause I watch limited-release movies. Plus, if I keep thinking about it, maybe one day I'll master the system.