Directed By Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Starring – Ivan Massague, Zorion Eguileor, Antonia San Juan
The Plot – One day Goreng (Massague) wakes up with his future colleague Trimagasi (Eguileor) in the 33rd level of a prison style place, crossed by a hole where a platform descends with meal remains left from the tenants from higher levels. Trimagasi knows the rules that govern this mysterious place: two people per level and an unknown number of them. If you go upwards you survive… but think too much and you will descend again. If you are in the bottom where the food barely arrives, you cannot trust anyone except your guts.
Rated R for nudity, brutal violence and gore, and adult language
– Meaningful themes and social subtext. “The Platform” isn’t just a uniquely genre-expanding film with an intriguing premise, but one that also brings to light some of the more alarming issues that are still ringing as loudly today as ever before. The idea of insanity being the same thing and expecting different results certainly rings true in this case, as social class warfare, world hunger, and even purgatory are a few of the topics that plays a pivotal hand in the unfurling of the story, and makes this one of the more absorbing character studies in a film that I have seen in quite some time. In this element alone, I could talk days about a movie this unabashedly honest and intelligent in the ways it conveys its evidence, but in a desire not to spoil anything, I will instead just say to study everything about every room that the film takes us through. Objects, character decisions, and even numbers play a key in unmasking what is taking shape at hand, and proves that this is anything but just another horror movie, but in fact one that metaphorically captures issues in an endless cage that we deal with in freedom every single day.
– Carnage candy. Speaking of the horror elements of the film, Galder is not a director who balks or even hesitates at getting his hands dirty with effective brutality that gets under your skin for the way his camera angles faithfully focus on such. It’s a movie that isn’t for the faint of heart, but one that maintains a truthful approach to its environmental elements, especially for two distinct scenes where bodily functions play a key measure in the way said treatment is cast upon others who characters deem less important because of where they reside. In a typical movie, the gross-out gags would come across to me as nothing but knee-jerk reactions from the director, who uses them to illustrate something unfortunately memorable, but here they are instilled in a way that elaborates at the bigger picture beneath mental conscience, and treats us to inequality at its most degrading of depictions.
– Sharp editing. There are many technical achievements that the film benefits from, but none more apparent than the mastery that resides in an editing scheme that often intensifies the absence of time and place continuously. During several montage sequences, the editing is pasted together in such a way that makes many days rub together, playing with the audiences mind as to whether this sequence is taking place in one single day, or several over the course of the month involved. This not only masters an unnerving feeling that visually relays the mental toll being paid by such an experiment, but also mentally fills in the gaps of logic in character development that can usually only be filled with ample time devoted to such. For instance, we learn that Goreng keeps tabs on how many floors there are by counting the loud shifts that the platform makes at each of its destination stops. This not only feeds into repetition playing a key component in a prisoner’s everyday routine, but also proves that time is his greatest accomplice in combating the limitations of a room whose scope into other rooms is limited at best.
– Immersive musical score. Similar to how “The Lighthouse” incorporated environmental elements to conjure up a naturalistic approach to its musical accompaniment, “The Platform” too attains this level of psychological duress that elevates the intensity of what began as an unnerving interaction. In this instance, composer Aranzazu Calleja, uses a rattling of pipes, echoing of voices from character’s in frame, and the repetition of the platform’s arrival, to feed into a composition of anxiety that intensifies the longer and louder that these elements play together. There is a faint familiarity of an electric keyboard being present somewhere in the distance, but I appreciate that most of the obvious ingredients in the foreground of music can be found in the heat of the scene’s setting, producing a psychological sting of isolation and claustrophobia arm-wrestling for the attention of its audience.
– Breakthrough cast. With this being a Spanish production, complete with foreign casts and crews, the film preserves an ambiguous quality to it that opened my eyes repeatedly, and brought forth some riveting performances that certainly caught my attention. None more prominent than Massague and Eguileor, whose time together on-screen provided me unlimited delight, if even just for the way their polar opposite personalities bounce off and annoy one another. For Massague’s Goreng, it’s his unraveling the longer that he is a part of this prison that really brings forth the desperation in his dreaded disposition, and patiently brings along a character transformation that molds with the more information that he interprets. Eguileor’s Trimagasi is part the comic relief for the movie, because of how he tests and drains his tender roommate, but also an opposition of sorts, for the way he represents everything that is wrong with the prison and humanity. Eguileor’s greatest strength is the personality of his character, which is every bit testing as it is self-entitled. There’s a certain glee to his brutal honesty that he takes like medicine in a deeply deserved conscience, and resulted in several guilty pleasurable moments internally that produced a hearty chuckle or two.
– Vast world-building. Perhaps what’s most surprising about the film’s unique one-stage setting is the way it’s able to invest so much in the rules and structure of its environment, despite being such a tightly budgeted product of its Netflix representation. One unfortunate drawback to this is the bigger picture of who and why within the prison that never truly materializes, but is made up through many vantage points that are easy to interpret and establish at any particular point in the story. In addition to this, matters like the platform itself and the advancement to a higher floor create an obstacle in theory, yet never take away from the conflict taking shape at hand, between two strangers who are learning more about each other than they initially would like. Most surprising is that no time frame or geographic location is given, leaving it a thought-provoking piece that could very well take place in a world not so far from our own, despite the extremism of the prison that at times feels post-apocalyptic.
– Similar but different. Almost immediately, people who have seen the 2014 smash hit “Snowpiercer” will read this plot summary and interpret this film as a cheap rip-off, and while I can agree that the movie is basically taking a parallel idea in the bullet train, and spinning it horizontally to create the prison we see before us, the similarities stop there. I say this with complete confidence, but “The Platform” is a smarter movie than its predecessor, taking ideas about classification and greed, and morphing them into a context that we can take and shape as similar to the world we live in. Once again, this is where the lack of time frame pays off immensely for “The Platform”, as everything taking place thematically may seem a bit extreme even for our prison system, but there’s certainly nothing here that feels too far out of the ordinary for where the evolution of incarceration is headed, mainly in the inequality that curses a prisoner long after they leave the bars that define them. Similar to “Snowpiercer” the concept of hope is a distant one, but unlike that film, this movie doesn’t require a Hollywood antagonist to puppeteer the strings behind the scenes, choosing instead to label society as a whole as the shadow figure pushing the buttons.
– Convenience in timing. Considering everything currently going on with our world and the Coronavirus, this film couldn’t have a more perfect release date for the many parallels it features between its almost satirical book ends. On the ideals of social distancing, the movie’s script has an almost timid approach to the way it introduces and unravels characters, making each of them feel like a seedy shade of grey that will hurt whatever and whoever they have to in order to reach their goals. Then there’s the focus on over-indulgence of food in this regard, but made almost prophetic when placed side by side with the scavenging of toilet paper and sanitizer that has plagued our real world scenario. In the film, the higher floors obviously ravage everything before the less fortunate have time to approach the table, and the way it echoes what is taking place beyond the screen currently gives the film a rich sense of authenticity that very few films are fortunate enough to receive because of elements that are completely out of their control.
– Underdeveloped. While the themes and characters in the film are fleshed out in a way that makes you sink your teeth of interest into each and every one of them, the prison concept itself could use a bit more exposition outside of the convicts to feed into a motive. If there is one problem with the direction of the film, it’s that the focus feels claustrophobic and confined like its prisoners, and while that doesn’t necessarily mean a villain waiting in the wing, because that’s not what I want, it would be nice to understand how a building with this many floors (And believe me there are a lot of them) is possible in the real world without structural or environmental elements weighing heavily on its progression. Aside from this, the occasional kitchen instances feel almost inconsequential to the rest of the script surrounding it, and could’ve used more definition in conjuring their appearances.
– Weak ending. It pains me that a movie filled with this much potential disappoints when it reaches the finishing line, but with so much of the third act turning metaphorical instead of the 80 minutes of realistic approach that guided the film, it could’ve used more meaning for why any of this even mattered. It’s not that my interpretation of the ending was lacking, because I totally understand what they were doing. It’s just that the film’s final thirty minutes garner no shortage of urgency that is unfortunately met with a climax that is the very definition of anti-climatic. It ends at the wrong time, and doesn’t give us that satisfying conclusion that we and the movie’s many protagonists have fought so hard to attain.
My Grade: 8/10 or B+