Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s horror thriller “The Platform” has been a regular fixture on Netflix’s daily Top 10 since it hit the streaming service last Friday, and no wonder: with its generous helpings of cannibalism, suicide, starvation, blood, guts and feces, how could it not be a crowd-pleaser? A gnarly mash-up of midnight movie and social commentary, the picture is overly overt but undeniably effective, delivering genre jolts and broad messaging in equal measure.
David Desola and Pedro Rivero’s screenplay focuses on a brutal experiment in social conditioning and blunt Darwinism. In a vast, vertical prison, each floor consists of a single, small room, inhabited by two cellmates. In the middle of each room, down the center of the building, is a giant hole where a descending meal platform — a kind of mass dumbwaiter — stops once a day, for the briefest interval. It is loaded with food and drink at the beginning of its descent, and “if everyone ate only what they needed,” an administrator explains, “the food would reach the lowest levels.” But this is a 200-story prison, so if those on the higher floors stuff their faces (and they all do), things can get more than a little desperate down below.
Into this sky-high hellscape comes Goreng (Ivan Massagué), not a prisoner but a volunteer, who has signed on for six months as a guinea pig in exchange for an accredited diploma. But he’s horrified by the notion of the platform, and the violence it precipitates; “It’s fairer to ration out the food,” he reasons with his cellmate, who snarls, “Are you a communist?”
As political allegories go, “The Platform” ranks somewhere between “Animal Farm” and a late-period “South Park” episode on the subtlety scale. Yet timing and circumstances have rendered its directness, the outright obviousness of its metaphors and messaging, into its greatest strength. When Netflix acquired the picture at last fall’s Toronto International Film Festival and set its spring streaming date, they couldn’t have imagined the kind of cultural nihilism it would tap into. But it does; this is a grim, bleak nightmare, where the only escape hinges on the conscious decision to help, value and share with one’s fellow man. If ever there were a movie of our moment, this is it.
Not rated. In Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 34 minutes.