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Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia's The Platform is the Perfect Capitalist Nightmare for the Quarantined

Photo: Netflix
Before being released on Netflix in March 2020, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia's dystopian horror The Platform (El Hoyo) made waves, first at Tiff 2019, where it won a People's Choice Award, and then at the Sitges Film Festival 2019, where it scored four different awards (Best Film, Audience Award, Special Effects, and Citizen Kane Best Debut Feature). Although Gaztelu-Urrutia has won acclaim for his short films, this is his first feature-length debut. With viewers worldwide quarantined and concerned with the shortage of consumable goods, the time is ripe for this story about greed, capitalism, and class disparity.

As the story begins, the audience and main character discover together the rules of this strange new world. Screenplay writers David Desola and Pedro Rivero and cinematographer Jon D. Dominguez unite script and imagery to build a world with little exposition or talking.

Goreng (Ivan Massague), our main character, serves as audience surrogate. and awakes in a cold concrete cell with Trimagasi (Zorion Equileor) his only company. In unforced yet simple strokes, we learn that they are on floor 48. Each level of the prison houses two prisoners. In the middle of the room is a rectangular hole. Once a day, a platform comes down bearing food; for two minutes, the platform rests on each floor, and the prisoners can eat as much as they can grab. No saving or hording is allowed. By the time the floor has reached 48, where our hero lies, 94 (47 x 2) people have feasted upon the food. As the platform gets lower, the food gets less appetizing and only scraps and dishes remain. After a month, the prisoners fall asleep and wake up on another floor --  maybe lucky; maybe unlucky. To the ones who survive, something good awaits.

As Goreng learn about this world and moves to each floor, he is partnered with different people and learns how to survive. But like all heroes, he isn't content to survive -- he wants to change things. On the way, people will help him, ignore him, or try to hurt him.

The clever premise alone guarantees audiences will be drawn to this movie, but luckily, it's not the only asset. The world created with the set pieces and art design adds to the nightmare. The cold, gray, concrete rooms and "the hole" showing each progressive level generates feelings of anxiety claustrophobia, and vertigo all at once. Anyone with a fear of heights will find the view truly scary. The quick pacing keeps the plot fresh and audiences intrigued and guessing how it will all play out.

The sound design adds to the horror as we view the greed, gluttony, and violence of the prisoners, who worry always that this meal may be the last. As the platform arrives and the prisoners come to dine, they chew and stuff food in their mouths, the disgusting sounds of enthusiastic masticating fully audible. And as Goreng faces the horror of surviving on lower floors, the violence is bloody, gruesome, and sensed in both sight and sound.

While all actors do a serviceable job, a special nod goes to Zorion Eguileor as the older Trimagasi. As Goreng's first cellmate, he guides, leads, antagonizes, and challenges our hero. He is our Obi-wan, our Gandalf, our Dumbledore. He adds some much needed humor to the story as well. But even if we had no great performances, in films like this, we don't need our actors to shine; we need them to stand-in for us so we can consider how we would handle this situation.

Audiences will root for Goreng as he survives the world, finds partners, and creates a plan. With Bong Joon-ho winning acclaim for movies such as Parasite and Snowpiercer, The Platform is sure to spark interest, as well. Its availability on Netflix to stream only adds to the appeal. While not a perfect movie -- the ending doesn't quite stick -- The Platform is recommended without reservation.

Final score: 3.5 out of 5

If you like this, try:

Parasite (2019), directed by Bong Joon-ho
Snowpiercer (2013), directed by Bong Joon-ho
The Cube (1997) directed by Vincenzo Natali
Pandorum (2009), directed by Christian Alvart
The Exterminating Angel (1962), directed by Luis Bunuel