The Platform

4 out of 5

Directed by: Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia

I don’t mind a movie with an obvious message if it’s… obvious in its messaging; that is: don’t try to dress it up as something especially revelatory if it’s the kind of ideology that you’d get nods of approval from from every single person on the planet of every age and every walk of life. If you thought about it at some point in high school, bored in your classes and doodling on a notebook, chances are, the rest of had the same thought.

The Platform’s pitch: there exists a facility of countless, vertically-stacked floors, two people per floor – outfitted like prisons, with spare beds, a single sink and toilet – in which each floor has a rectangular hole in the middle, down which a platform containing a gigantic feast is lowered, pausing momentarily on each floor. It starts at the top – floor 1 – full. By the time it gets to your floor – floor 6, or 48, or maybe 100 – how full will it be? When Goreng (Ivan Massagué) wakes up on 48, his cellmate explains the rules of the game to him: eat all you can when the platform passes; don’t engage people on the floors above and below; and in a month’s time, when all the occupants on each floor are reshuffled, maybe you’ll wind up on a higher floor. But Goreng wants to know: why not only take the food you need, so the people below have food? Because they wouldn’t do the same for you. Why not talk to the other floors, try to encourage them ration the food? Because they wouldn’t do the same for you. So the class parables are obvious: those on top benefit, and fie to the rest.

But The Platform is one of those message movies that doesn’t dress this up and try to sell it as mind-shattering. As mentioned, it lays its concept, and the selfless / selfish takes on it, clearly, and right away. It’s shot crisply, and personally – Goreng feels like a real person – and without the flash of, say, Cube (which this has a superficial relationship to, as a social commentary crafted to an odd architectural structure), which further separates this from the chaff of flicks that think they have more to say than they do. This allows director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, working from a script from David Desola and Pedro Rivera, to start slickly adding in bits and pieces which make it less obvious, and more interesting.

The floor swapping, for example, is explained, but is treated more like a way to chapterize the movie than it is as a direct commentary point, which thus indirectly draws into study the randomness of it. Goreng is a “good” person, but during his bid in this facility, he’ll be on higher floors, and lower floors. Conversation and well-paced flashbacks explain that entrance into this joint is actually voluntary, which further separates this from a “rich get richer” easy point of view; Goreng, for example, chose to enter for six months to stop smoking and to finish reading a book – a book being the one item he chose to bring in with him. And as we end up visiting some other floors, and noting the one items others chose to bring, The Platform again gives us something to think about without shoving it in our face, despite the whole setup being very in your face… especially given the horror movie extremes to which it descends when we learn more about how some people survive on lower floors, and certain denizens that become a bit cracked by their experiences.

One aspect where The Cube comparison is apt, though, is that you can’t really resolve a movie like this. You can build to something cryptic – a la Cube 2 – which is just a distraction method, or you can try to “answer” whatever questions you’re posing – let’s call that Equilibrium style – which will likely just over-obvious whatever obviousness you’ve already (probably clunkily) executed, or you can be rather ambiguous about things. I don’t know if The Platform had a better or ideal way to end, but I do think it started to throw in a few too many cryptic characters and details in its last section to make the most of its ending, somewhat muddying the contemplative elements it successfully wound in to its bombastic premise. However, the strong and confident direction – and really smartly handled production sensibilities, not reaching for anything beyond the available budget – and the engaging, human performance from Massagué never falter throughout; the movie remains intriguing for all of its 94 minutes, and rewatchably so.