Thursday, April 2, 2020

Movie Review: The Platform

The Platform *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia.
Written by: David Desola & Pedro Rivero.
Starring: Ivan Massagué (Goreng), Zorion Eguileor (Trimagasi), Antonia San Juan (Imoguiri), Emilio Buale (Baharat), Alexandra Masangkay (Miharu), Zihara Llana (Mali), Mario Pardo (Amigo de Baharat), Algis Arlauskas (Preso), Txubio Fernández de Jáuregui (Jefe de Restaurante), Eric Goode (Sr. Brambang).
A man wakes up on the floor of a prison cell. There is a hole in the middle of the floor, and one other prisoner on the other side of that hole. He is older, has been here a while – and will explain the rules. They are on a relatively high level – 48 – so they’ll be okay this month. They may end up on a worst level next month – but they can deal with that then. Once a day, a table packed with food descends through the prison – stopping on each floor for a few minutes. There is enough food for everyone to eat – as long as people don’t gorge themselves. But, of course, that is exactly what happens. Those on the top floors eat like kings – but as the table lowers each level down, some people will get nothing to eat for the entire month.
The Platform doesn’t waste a lot of time explaining why this prison has been set up this way. It doesn’t really make much in the way of logical sense -unlike say Snowpiercer, which took a similar premise, but put it on a train circumnavigating a post-apocalyptic world. It doesn’t really need an explanation though – in the words of another film by the director of Snowpiercer “it’s metaphorical” – and as long as you except that, you’ll enjoy The Platform just fine. The screenwriters, David Desola and Pedro Rivero, seem to know this – but they have also thought through at least some of the practical logic that people behind this concept would have to figure out – like how you prevent food hording, etc. – and they dole out that information only as needed – perhaps at the precise moments they feel that the audience will ask the question themselves.
The hero of the movie is Goreng (Ivan Massagué), a skinny, bearded intellectual, who amazingly, volunteered to be a part of this sadistic experiment – not knowing all of the details of course. His cellmate is Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor), who is not there voluntarily. You can tell the differences between them simply by finding out what their “luxury” items are – for Goreng is a copy of Don Quixote that he plans to ready. For Trimagasi, it is a kitchen knife that sharpens itself as it is used. That knife got him in prison – and perhaps it will help him survive.
What follows in The Platform is a claustrophobic film that traps these two characters together. The film will add more characters, through some creative means – and as you expect, at some point, Goreng will rally against the system – to try and break it the cycle. I give the filmmakers behind The Platform a lot of credit – they clearly started with an interesting idea, and then tried – and mainly succeeded – to expand that idea in different directions. I wasn’t as thrilled with the endgame of the film as much as the first two thirds – you know it’s coming, but aside from a lot of blood and gore, it’s just not as satisfying.
The Platform though may be the right film at the right time. As Covid-19 upends our entire way of life – at least temporarily – many have started to question the very foundation of society that we have created for ourselves, and we see how fragile it can be. The Platform is a film that shares some of that DNA with the films of Bong Joon-ho, who has used genre trappings to question our society – and it’s more relevant than ever right now. Add in the claustrophobic setting, and The Platform is an even more effective film to watch during our self-isolation. It is isn’t a perfect film – but it’s a perfect film right now.

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