Released: 20th March
Seen: 1st April
So… how’s everyone enjoying the apocalypse? I have to admit that I was expecting something more like a Mad Max apocalypse or even something like the TV series Blood Drive (which is very fun and you should check out) but nope, no our apocalypse has to be boring and require all of us to stay at home all the time. Naturally, this means that we have a whole lot more time to sit and watch Netflix movies, which are going to have to replace going to the actual cinema for the foreseeable future. I have now got no excuse and have to actually get through these (and through a few older films and some that’ve been emailed to me, I have a list of films that’s rapidly building) and normally a Netflix original film, especially this early in the year, would make me nervous about its quality. Fortunately for me, I picked The Platform and it feels weirdly appropriate for this period in time.
The Platform, or El Hoyo as it was originally titled, takes place in a vertical prison. The prison is impossibly large with over 350 floors and each floor can hold 2 people. There’s a giant hole in the middle of every floor and once a day the titular platform slowly descends through the building. At level 1 the platform is loaded with food, overflowing with cakes and meats and all the good stuff but the further down it goes, the less there is until eventually there isn’t even a bone left to chew on. On one of the many floors is a man named Goreng (Ivan Massagué) who actually signed up voluntarily so he could use the prison as a way to help him quit smoking and now he wants to tear apart this system from the inside.
Every film is in some way political, that’s just the nature of art. The Platform is the most blatantly political film that I have ever seen and it’s not ashamed of it in the slightest. Just reading the description you can tell it’s a film about the upper classes and how they use all the resources and leave the scraps for those below and it’s exactly that. Within several minutes they make it clear that no matter where you are on the food chain, those above you don’t care what you have to say and you shouldn’t give a damn about those below you. It’s as subtle as a brick to the testicles and it is proud to be that way.
This movie takes that classic “Trickle Down Economics” idea and puts it into a harsh reality that’s impossible to ignore. The idea that those up top are going to leave enough for everyone else has always been comically innocent but The Platform takes that idea to its logical extreme and creates a very simple and effective little horror film that doesn’t shy away from the brutality and desperation that comes with a low position on the societal food chain. Sometimes horror works it’s best when it just takes an element of reality and twists it a little. The Platform tries to do for class what Get Out did for racism… except Get Out had a brilliant ending and The Platform doesn’t.
The big problem with The Platform comes from its ending, which I won’t spoil, but it’s meaningless. It doesn’t offer us an answer to the great question the film asks about society and it doesn’t give us the catharsis of watching those on the lower levels find a way to make it up to the top of the building and start collecting heads like their names were O-Ren Ishii. There’s none of that, it ends because 90 minutes were up and they had to finish it. Ambiguous endings are fine but when you have a film that’s this blunt about what it thinks about the current class system and how those at the top allow those at the bottom to fight over scraps then you should probably give your audience an ending that’s as memorable and intriguing as the rest of it. I mean, we have a film where we can actually justify a scene where the lower classes finally build those goddamn guillotines and take their issues up with those running the system but it won’t do it because it wants to tackle the whole “Life sucks if you’re poor” thing, but wants to pass it off as being about individuals and not… you know, the godawful system and those who benefit from it. It’s very blunt on this too since the one person who calls out how stupid this system is gets called a communist… did I mention this film wasn’t subtle?
Sometimes you need a film to just throw subtlety to the wind and be blunt and there’s a lot of value to that and the scenes where they are just laying into the system’s flaws are genuinely fascinating. The film looks impressive as hell, utilizing its limited set well and always finding interesting shots within its limited space. The idea and execution mostly work but when it comes time to make the touchdown at the end, it fumbles hard. The Platform is certainly a good film, I just know they could’ve made it a great film and it’s a little sad they didn’t push it where they absolutely could’ve pushed it.