Netflix’s newest sci-fi horror hit, The Platform, is an age-old allegory that’s been reiterated to us in fiction time and time again; however, not nearly with this much cannibalism, murder and fecal matter.
The Platform operates as an outlandish metaphor for class inequality, calling to mind this year’s Best Picture winner Parasite in terms of message and has even drawn comparisons to director Bong Joon-ho’s other work, Snowpiercer. Due to abject subject matter, The Platform does not handle itself with as much grace as the aforementioned films, but that’s the point. The word “revolt” sees through its double meaning in The Platform. The hope, of course, is that the disgust factor infused into this film matches the horrors of the underlying story it seeks to share.
We open on our hero, a tired-eyed man named Goreng (Iván Massagué) whose solemn, bookish demeanor does not match up to that of the vicious prisoners he’s initially surrounded by, or the concrete cell he wakes up in; it appears to be floating, with a massive hole in the middle of it and matching holes on top and bottom, stretching for hundreds of blocks above and below. Soon, the hole’s purpose is realized: a big platform containing the feast of dreams drops down and fills the hole in Goreng’s cell, but most of the food is gone, with only scraps left for him and his cellmate. While his cellmate ravenously strips half-eaten meat off of the few bones left that have some, Goreng is quick to realize that something’s wrong here.
The Platform’s viscerality is never a replacement for dignity. The logistics of the prison Goreng now lives in are implemented with precision. The film remains fully committed to its concepts, making the most potentially cringeworthy moments of disgust enough to leave a viewer on edge. When prisoners find they must eat the bodies of others to survive, when one unloads bodily functions on the food of another, it’s all played straight and forces you to remain wide-eyed at the horrors instead of turning away. It’s painted in dark shades, cemented as a tragedy and a visceral reminder that this very thing happens to those in the lower class on a daily basis.
The film is a metaphor, of course, for the way those high up in society choose to treat the lower class. In its firmness in this belief, The Platform suffers in being too forceful with it, too on-the-nose in particular. The opening moments spell out the film’s entire plot through the characters’ dialogue and throughout the entire film. The same is done with a metaphor that speaks for itself, “you don’t deserve to be on this level,” one cellmate tells Goreng as he refuses to dig into the feast in disgust and sits in quiet protest at his situation.
The Platform refuses to leave anything ambiguous up until it reaches its open end. Although the ending has purpose in the grand scheme of the film’s message, it feels anticlimactic when it caps off a film that was blunt about the message it intended to portray. Over an hour of the film built up into a revolution but, with this ending, the film’s forcefulness ultimately fizzles out due to its ambiguity.
The Platform is quite timely, though, almost seeming to be placed into Netflix’s new catalogue with purpose. Although we’ve heard this story before with as much conviction, this horror take on it offers a new, visceral look, an unflinching stare, into its subject matter.