Director: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
Writer: David Desola, Pedro Rivero
Producer: Carlos Juarez
Stars: Ivan Massague, Antonia San Juan, Zorian Eguileor, Emilio Buale, Alexandra Masangkay, Zihara Llana
In a dystopian prison, a platform of communal food descends daily through dozens of floors, forcing paired cellmates to selfishly survive at the expense of anyone further down.
You can get into ¡®The Pit¡¯ one of two ways. Most people enter involuntarily. Operated by a faceless regime referred to as ¡®The Administration,¡¯ the Vertical Self-Management Center, or VSC for short, functions as a correctional facility. Prisoners are paired with one other person and assigned to simple, rectangular rooms stacked one on top of another. In the center sits a large square hole, creating an open shaft that connects seemingly endless cells as far down as the eye can see.
Once each day, a platform full of Michelin-quality food descends down that shaft, stopping for two minutes at each floor. Supposedly, there¡¯s enough for everyone to eat. But there¡¯s no authority to control who takes what or how much. Upper floors greedily gorge like animals at a trough while lower levels dig through progressively more disgusting scraps, if anything remains at all.
Slight hope exists, however. At the start of each month, cellmates switch levels, apparently according to some random whim of an imaginary roulette wheel. Maybe you¡¯ll enjoy fine wine and lobster on one of the first few floors. Maybe you¡¯ll be dumped down to a triple-digit level, where starving cellmates consider carving each other like Thanksgiving turkeys.
Goreng goes into The Pit on his own accord. He¡¯s told if he serves a six-month term, the government will grant him a diploma. Allowed just one personal item, Goreng brings a book, thinking he¡¯ll pass the time enlightening his mind while curing his nicotine addiction too.
Initially unaware of exactly how the VSC operates, Goreng soon discovers he willingly but unwittingly entered a dystopian nightmare where the haves and the have-nots change identities every 30 days. Survival has little use for civility here. To have any chance of staying alive in a place where society resorts to savagery, Goreng must find a way to break the system before it breaks him.
Like ¡®The Pit,¡¯ you can also get into ¡°The Platform¡± one of two ways. The first is simply as a superb, Spartan, suspenseful thriller that entertainingly and intelligently engages the imagination. Or, you can stare with scared eyes at its eerily accurate allegory. The movie douses itself in chilling commentary on capitalist culture, then lights a frightening match using visceral violence and sensational splatter that shocks and awes in equal measure.
¡°The Platform¡¯s¡± food for thought couldn¡¯t possibly be any more urgent. Unlike the communal buffet in the film, this feast should be consumed voraciously, indulgently, and with minds as open as the hungry maws taking it all in.
As I write this in late March 2020, the entire outside world remains locked in a state of self-quarantine social distancing due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly from American politicians desperate to correct a rapidly nose-diving economy, we¡¯re seeing a response of callous unconcern regarding acceptable losses, with some ready to strand senior citizens and the terminally ill as collateral sacrifices for a future of possible prosperity. High concept premises featuring once unimaginable scenarios no longer seem steeped in fantastical sci-fi. We¡¯re closer than ever to ¡°Logan¡¯s Run¡± or ¡°The Purge¡± (review here) becoming a reality. And ¡°The Platform¡± is far out in front on the bleeding edge of cautionary fables that are almost too terrifyingly relatable in these increasingly troubling times.
Also as I write this, filmdom mourns the passing of Master of Horror Stuart Gordon. Coincidentally, I came across this Gordon quote that fits ¡°The Platform¡¯s¡± big picture purpose perfectly: ¡°People think horror movies are kind of mindless, but in actuality they¡¯re a way of making statements about things that people really are afraid to talk about.¡±
¡°The Platform¡± contains an extraordinary amount of content to unpack for a 90-minute movie with a single location and just five fully featured characters. Because of the background needed to build the rules of this world while seeding setups that keep the plot turning, exposition comes at the audience constantly. But the strange setting is so alluring, each new detail delivered via dialogue fosters further fascination with the fiction instead of anything close to fatigue.
Intense performances from Ivan Massague as Goreng and Zorian Equileor as his cellmate Trimagasi consistently captivate. Simple exchanges become rich confrontations as these two men teeter-totter between disparate dispositions and alternating attitudes that maintain one eye on friendship and the other on suspicion. Even when they¡¯re being funny, which is frequently, ¡°The Platform¡± keeps tension high by merely suggesting dreaded cruelties yet to come.
No one has to reach far to make a claim that some metaphors get submerged in murk. Specifically, the last two minutes bite on a bit of open-to-interpretation dreaminess after most of the movie stays starkly upfront about its thematic intentions.
But ¡°The Platform¡± is never pretentious, even when it¡¯s being slightly ambiguous. Hard hits of action soaked in bloody shocks keep heavy-handedness at bay. The movie never tries to be cleverer than the story permits either. David Desola and Pedro Rivera¡¯s smart scripting creates a wide berth where disbelief can easily be suspended on a coat rack as long as required. Director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia makes the most out of minimal space with creative camerawork and staging, establishing a line of credit that isn¡¯t overcharged by unearned artfulness.
¡°The Platform¡± creates a time capsule that puts 2020¡¯s social climate in a provocative perspective. Whether it¡¯s making humorous digs about getting fleeced by a misleading infomercial or turning escargot into a personal parallel, I can¡¯t immediately recall another movie that has so effectively and economically conceptualized current event topics such as socialism, Darwinism, and class structure. And yet ¡°The Platform¡± puts 21st-century politics under a microscope without undercutting its mainstream mystique as nerve-wracking sci-fi cinema along the lines of ¡°Cube¡± or ¡°Fermat¡¯s Room.¡±
NOTE: The film¡¯s Spanish title is ¡°El hoyo.¡±
Review Score: 90