The Infernal Machine15
When it comes to acting, young aspiring talent needs to start somewhere. Daytime TV is often a first stop for many, with a recurring role on a soap being a big deal. Two soaps that have produced an almost alarming amount of talent are Australia’s Neighbours and Home and Away that featured the likes of Russell Crowe, Margot Robbie, Hemsworth’s – Chris, Liam and Luke – Naomi Watts, and Heath Ledger to name but a few.
And then there’s Guy Pearce, who did the double and appeared in both, then went to make an impact on the big screen with Baz Luhrmann’s directorial debut, 1992’s Strictly Ballroom.
This led to Hollywood calling a few years later with Pearce starring in 1997’s L.A Confidential, and thus an international star was born.
He stars here in his latest, based on a story written by Louis Kornfeld, as a writer with a serious case of writer’s block, which leads to some unwelcome attention.
A perfect example of ‘those who can, do; those that can’t, teach’ is Professor Bruce Cogburn (Pearce); he’s a frustrated writer so earns money in teaching those to write instead.
His luck changes however when a book of his, The Infernal Machine, finally gets published to wide acclaim.
It’s just the type of fortune that can kick start a career, but when a tragic incident occurs in 1981, Cogburn can no longer face the blank page again.
25 years later, and Cogburn is living the life of a recluse, living in a remote part of the world on his own. He starts to get some mail however, from a fellow writer who’s keen to have him tell his story, and explain just why he hasn’t written again.
Cogburn, initially flattered by the attention, then gets deluged with this correspondence, all from the same person, that starts to feel like harassment.
This leads him to start his own investigation, but as he starts to pull on this thread as to the identity of this overzealous fan, a curiously dark narrative starts to unfold, ironically enough, great stories are made of.
Director Andrew Hunt’s second feature is, in places, a tense and thrilling watch. It’s a slow burner, for sure, as, much like the main protagonist, we’re in the dark as to what exactly is taking place, as we’re drip fed occasional clues along the way.
It has a really strong second act, with some truly nail-biting scenes that are impressively dramatic, featuring a strong performance from an almost unrecognisable Alex Pettyfer.
It lets itself down however with its finale, which isn’t terribly strong, and slightly undoes all the good work leading up to it, but it’s almost forgivable, down to one man: Pearce.
Now the English-born Ozzie is fairly under-rated in our books, deserving of more praise and kudos for his talents. Even in his more questionable projects, he is always worth watching. And when he’s in top form, as he has been in TV shows of late such as Mildred Pierce and Jack Irish, he simply sizzles.
As he does here, in what could arguably be his best film role since Memento. He is in almost every frame of this, and he brings such an almost deviant energy to the role, you’d be a fool to take your eyes off of him.
And although as mentioned, with its finale going off the rails somewhat, it doesn’t really matter as we get to see Pearce flexing his considerable acting muscles to such pleasing effect.
It’s a film that has its moments, where it’s undoubtedly gripping and oozing intrigue, and although it may not rank as one of his best films, it’s certainly one of his strongest performances.