Directed by Brad Anderson, starring Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón, John Sharian and Michael Ironside.

Should Christian Bale ever decide that being an actor just isn't lucrative enough, he can turn his weight loss for this film into his own industry and create 'The Machinist Diet'. You can almost see the slogan: "It won't be pretty, but it will work." To immerse himself in the role of Trevor Reznik, Bale - an actor with enough of a build to be cast as Batman - lost over four stone, existing on an apple here, a can of tuna there and air. When you see the onscreen results of the regime you'll be shocked and -understandably - the press surrounding the film has focussed on it, but Brad Anderson's film deserves to be admired for more than just Bale's battle with the scales.

Machine operator Reznik hasn't slept in a year. He's down to 119 pounds; his clothes look likes sheets hanging off a pole; his employers and co-workers wonder just what is going on and the two very different women in his life - call girl Stevie (Jason Leigh) and waitress Marie (Sánchez-Gijón) are worried about him. But the cleaning and list-obsessed Reznik seems happy enough, in his own wry, introverted way. Things take a turn for the worse, however, when a new welder, Ivan (Sharian), turns up at Reznik's job. He distracts Reznik one day while he's working on a machine and a colleague loses an arm as a result. In the investigation that follows it transpires that no-one else on the shop floor has ever seen Ivan. Why is Reznik being set up? Or is the truth far more troubling?

With Barcelona doubling for an anonymous American city, Anderson has created a film that plays like an extended episode of TV classic 'Tales of the Unexpected' - it keeps you guessing; it cranks up the tension and, of course, you know it won't end well. With its grainy camerawork, visual loops and faded colours, it's one of the more stylish films in a while, creating a world where Reznik's mind/body conflict is always escalating. And in that role of the man who becomes a rat in a cage Bale does everything right. You worry about him from the instant he creaks onto the screen and you hope against hope that there's some safe explanation for it all which will see him fill out again and get the girl.

Perhaps, then, you'll feel the ending is a little rushed and too convenient for the headwrecking that preceded it. But any disappointment will be offset by the knowledge that this is a distinctive thriller that deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. There are no guns and no murders, just one average joe trying to find out just who has it in for him. And as Reznik himself says, "A little guilt goes a long way."

Harry Guerin