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film review

In Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia's The Platform, prisoners housed in vertically stacked cells watch hungrily as food descends from above – feeding the upper tiers, but leaving those below ravenous and radicalized.Courtesy of Netflix

  • The Platform
  • Directed by Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia
  • Written by David Desola and Pedro Rivero
  • Starring Ivan Massague
  • Classification TV-MA; 94 minutes

Rating:

3.5 out of 4 stars

Extraordinarily gross, metaphorically blunt, but also perversely and wildly entertaining, the new Spanish splatter satire The Platform is the perfect movie to watch while the world seemingly teeters on the edge of existence. Or maybe it’s the worst movie to watch while COVID-19 shuts down large chunks of global society. Either way, you definitely have nothing better to do with your time, so why not give yourself the gift of a genuinely riotous gross-out gonzo-fest, available whenever you want it on Netflix?

Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s feature-length debut is a supremely confident genre mash-up that fuses the mysterious-prison conceit of Canadian classic Cube with the tongue-in-cheek social commentary of Bong Joon-ho’s Snowpiercer before slathering it all with torn strips of flesh and buckets of blood. I half-apologize if this is all a bit much to read about or contemplate watching, especially in these current frantic days, but sometimes you have to meet anxious terror with an even higher level of anxiety – a sentiment that Gaztelu-Urrutia would clearly agree with, given his film’s penchant for mixing horror with hope.

Ivan Massagué plays Goreng, who volunteers to enter the Pit to earn credits toward postsecondary education.Courtesy of Netflix

But first, that horror: Taking place in a near-future dystopic Spain – it’s unclear exactly what’s caused the economic and social collapse in the nation, but we are all now equipped to let our imaginations run wild – The Platform follows the healthy, compassionate wannabe scholar Goreng (Ivan Massague), who volunteers to enter the Pit, a “vertical self-management care” centre that’s basically one prison cell stacked atop another, for seemingly endless storeys. Goreng is only there so that he can earn enough credits to get access to postsecondary education – the Pit’s guests are not so much criminals (although, yes, they’re there, too) as law-abiding citizens trying to climb the societal ladder. As I said, the metaphors here aren’t exactly subtle.

But if staying in the Pit only involved isolation and a lack of sunlight, that would be one thing. The real trouble: In the hollowed-out middle of each unit runs the titular platform, a slab of concrete that starts at the Level 1 of the Pit carrying a decadent feast of lobster, steak, fruit and the like. But the platform only stays on one level for so long, and as it descends into the lower, seemingly endless depths of the Pit, the food is gradually eaten away by increasingly ravenous inmates.

As the titular platform descends through the Pit, increasingly ravenous prisoners eat away at its initially bountiful offerings.Courtesy of Netflix

If you’re near the top, like Goreng is at the beginning of the film, you’ll find enough greasy leftovers to suffice. But every few weeks, prisoners are knocked unconscious by the Pit’s mysterious overseers, and switched to other cell blocks – sometimes you’re at the top savouring a slice of chocolate cake, sometimes you’re near the bottom fighting over bones.

Gazetlu-Urrutia isn’t asking the most profound questions here – can one man change the system, before it changes him? – but he is having an absolutely disgustingly fun time doing so. As Goreng finds his situation becoming increasingly dire, meeting new and oft-dangerous cellmates along the way, the film wriggles itself into a handful of grimy and disparate genre corners, as if Gazetlu-Urrutia is testing out how far he can take well-worn aesthetic extremes. Some moments play like Pier Paolo Pasolini (Salo) having a chuckle, others like Eli Roth (Hostel, Cabin Fever) on methamphetamine, or as if Gareth Evans (The Raid) had lost his dang mind.

Before The Platform premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival this past September, I was convinced that it would send certain audiences into convulsive shock – the same kind that reportedly greeted two moviegoers during a TIFF screening of the French cannibalism flick Raw in 2016. That, fortunately, didn’t happen; instead, The Platform won the festival’s People’s Choice Midnight Madness Award. Still, I’d queue up The Platform with caution this week. At home, there may be no one else to catch you if were you to pass out.

The Platform is available to stream on Netflix starting March 20

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