THE PLATFORM – Review
Review by Stephen Tronicek
The Platform, released on Netflix into this harsh climate of ours, starts with a premise so fiendishly simple all screenwriters worth their salt (including myself) should be kicking themselves. Goreng (Ivan Massagué), a man looking to obtain a quick academic document, wakes up in “the hole,” a prison/indentured servitude area. It is set up vertically. The hole in the middle of the room reveals an endless chasm of other rooms. Each day, a platform lowers down carrying a tray of food. The problem? Every level above Goreng has already gotten to eat off of it first. That’s a smart idea. It’s visually interesting and the metaphor is easy to grasp. If there’s a finite amount of food, what’s to stop the people above you from getting to it first?
But better ideas have been squandered. Built as a “contained-thriller,” The Platform could have devolved into a simple story of Goreng vs. the other members of “the hole.” Instead, it devotes much of its running time to philosophically picking apart the way human behavior is altered within the confines of a system.
This all sounds heavy-handed, and to some degree it is, but there’s never an air of pretentiousness bogging down the story. The script by David Desola and Pedro Rivera is too smart to just come out and say things, burying wealth in little pockets of information that pass by in an instant and are so well performed it doesn’t matter. Each new plot element is introduced with grace, each new philosophical idea presented through the behaviors of the characters. In an age of writing that can get weighted in exposition, it feels breathless to watch this.
Director Garter Gaztelu-Urrutia also doesn’t fall into the traps often found in “contained” low budget films. While the visual style of the direction is predominantly handheld, it feels deliberate and studied. The fact that the film never sacrifices its seriousness for a cheap laugh, respecting the audience’s capacity to grasp what it is doing is telling. There’s a weight to the way faces are framed and montages are executed.
Those faces are magnificent too. Massagué has the look of a rugged intellectual straight out of the work of John Carpenter and scene-stealer Zorian Eguiler has the horrifying gravitas, yet hilarious detail of Anthony Hopkins. It’s a stacked film, with a stacked cast (pun intended). Over the next few weeks, all of us are going to be spending a lot of time inside watching content that could either be enriching or talking down to us. The Platform is a film where characters literally talk down to each other, but it never talks down to you. It presents important issues in a narratively rich environment. While you’re inside, do yourself a favor and check it out.