Review: ‘The Platform’ depicts terrifying analogy for class inequality

The Spanish science fiction, horror-thriller "The Platform" has been a regular fixture on Netflix's 'Top 10' since it became available to stream. Photo courtesy of Netflix.

By Madalyn Watson | Arts & Life Editor

Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s horror-thriller “The Platform” offers a simplistic, yet captivating look into the human condition.

I first heard about the movie, titled “El Hoyo” for Spanish audiences, when it won the People’s Choice Award for Midnight Madness at the Toronto International Film Festival last year.

After learning about the plot, I found myself thinking about it all the time and I couldn’t stop. Lucky for the rest of us, the film’s festival success landed it a worldwide streaming deal with Netflix.

However, the film’s timing could not be more perfect since it was released on March 20 right on the cusp of all this COVID-19 madness.

The setting is what makes this film so unique. It begins the preparations for a decadent feast on the ground floor of a multi-level facility. The meal fit to feed hundreds is carried on a descending platform to each of the floors of a penetrating prison.

The platform stops at each floor for just long enough for two cellmates to gorge themselves on the leftovers of the people above them.

But the platform plummets deeper and deeper into the hole. Even after the last crumb is devoured, it continues.

For those surviving on the lower floors, they hold onto the hope that next month — when they are on a new floor — they will be high enough in the tower to eat.

An accidentally perfect metaphor for our time, “The Platform” makes no attempt to keep its intended social commentary hidden.

If every floor chose to only eat what was necessary to survive, then there would be enough food for everybody, but no one ever does. Because they are assigned new floors each month, the inmates on the top floors stuff themselves to prepare for the following month when they may have no food.

The prisoners are disgusted by those above them who leave them with nothing, even though they do the same, and they spit on those below them.

Although I normally don’t enjoy films with such heavy handed messages, the atmosphere of “The Platform” is so tense it left me rocking back and forth on the floor until the credits rolled.

“The Platform” is definitely more a thriller than a horror film, but that doesn’t mean it is for the faint-hearted. The concept is possibly the most disturbing part for me personally, but the film is filled with over-the-top, yet realistic gore.

Although you probably have already guessed it, I must warn anyone thinking about watching it that it does feature some hints at sexual assault as well as a whole lot of cannibalism.

The soundtrack was as alarming as the action, almost like a clock ticking away the seconds the cast of characters have left in the hole. Even though most of the film takes place in identical cells, the bare-boned set is claustrophobic.

Even though at some points the acting was stilted and delved into uncanny valley territory, the characters the audience gets to know are interesting and dynamic.

Spanish actor Iván Massagué who plays Goreng, the tender-hearted protagonist, gives a heart-breaking and entirely human performance. Audiences may not know much about his character other than the fact that he is fundamentally good.

Each person is allowed to bring one item with them into the hole. While many of the other inmates bring weapons, Goreng brings a copy of “Don Quixote” hoping to catch up on his reading and quit smoking. He is not alone in his naivety — one clueless woman brings her dog as a companion — but his trusting outlook on life could be the death of him.

It might sound dark, but “The Platform” does have a hopeful aspect to it. As Goreng pushes the plot forward, he is holding on to some semblance of hope, no matter how small it may be.

The ending is just what “The Platform” needed to be a new classic. The film is making its audience think, so much so that it has been in Netflix’s Top Ten since it first became available for streaming.

If anything about “The Platform” sounds intriguing to you, I’d advise you to watch it if you haven’t already. Just don’t eat while watching.