REVIEW: ‘The Infernal Machine’

‘The Infernal Machine’ isn’t a perfect thriller by any means, but it does feature a hell of a performance from Guy Pearce.

A good psychological thriller can have audience members on the edge of their seat from the very beginning until the very end. The problem is, developing a good psychological thriller isn’t easy, especially when the story takes a bit to get going. The Infernal Machine isn’t a bad movie by any means, but it struggles to get going until well-beyond the midway point of the film.

The Infernal Machine stars the always great Guy Pearce as author Bruce Cogburn. Following the success of his one and only novel, Cogburn becomes a recluse after a controversial event involving his novel, The Infernal Machine. He’s no longer interested in being known as the famous author, and despite pleas for a follow-up, Cogburn seems to have nothing left in his to write another title. In the beginning, it’s a bit unclear what the controversy is that surrounds his book, but that seems to take a backseat to what appears to be an obsessive fan. Day after day, packages and letters show up at Cogburn’s residence, even though only a handful of people close to him know where to find him. The obsessive fan isn’t shown, but their presence is felt throughout the film. On one hand, the decision to forgo showing the fan is a smart one. On the other hand, however, it makes the ending all the more frustrating as it becomes rushed.

The movie is a slow burn. It’s in no rush to unravel truths and lies for audience members. Which wouldn’t be so bad, except it often feels like it is repeating itself. There are only so many times the film can focus on Cogburn in a telephone booth trying to reach the obsessive fan. It becomes tiresome after a while. It isn’t until Saul is introduced that the film seems to regain its footing. It’s frustrating because Pearce does deliver a hell of a performance. He captures the anxiety, fear and anger necessary to portray the role of Cogburn perfectly. But there’s only so much Pearce can do to carry an uneven story.

Like most indie films, the cast of The Infernal Machine is a small one. Pearce is, per usual, a highlight. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for Alice Eve or Alex Pettyfer. Eve isn’t necessarily bad, but her character often feels underdeveloped. While Pettyfer simply feels miscast. His scenes with Pearce are startling because Pearce manages to act circles around the young actor. He simply did not have the skills needed to play the role of Dwight Tufford. The role isn’t a large one, but the moments Pettyfer pops up on screen seem to drag the film down a notch. He’s just not captivating enough to play such a morally corrupt character.

The ending is where The Infernal Machine shines. It’s a corrupt story that doesn’t shy away from ugly truths. Every moment of the third act is full of pulse-pounding moments. Is it perfect? No. Is it well-crafted? Yes. It’s only a shame the rest of the film couldn’t maintain this level of quality throughout.

For those looking for an action-packed thriller, The Infernal Machine is probably not the right type of film. However, those looking for a slow-burn with a surprising twist ending? Well, The Infernal Machine is worth a watch.

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