Tuesday, June 9, 2020

The Platform Is Too Derivative To Really Reach Its Full Potential

Goreng (Ivan Massague) awakens in a small cell with a single companion, an elderly man named Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor). They're in an entity called a Vertical Self-Management Center, which consists of hundreds of floors each housing two people. Every day, a floating table filled with food travels downward in the facility. The people in the top floors get all the good food while those on lower floors either get stuck with scraps or have to resort to more vicious ways of surviving. Goreng is stuck on floor 48 and gets a first-hand glimpse at what desperate means people will turn to in the name of survival. Why would Goreng even come here? Well, he spends a couple months here, he gets a diploma.

I'm sure it sounded like a good idea at the time. But this plan is turning into a nightmare for Goreng, who keeps getting shifted to a new floor and a new roommate each month. Sometimes he moves higher up, sometimes he moves to the lowest levels of this facility. The world Goreng and his cellmates are now inhabiting is one brought to life through solid writing on the parts of screenwriters David Desola and Pedro Rivero. The duo does a nice job of just letting the visuals on-screen demonstrate how The Platform's world operates rather than slowing down for a suffocating amount of expository dialogue.

The pair also show an affinity for taking the plot to truly dark places. On-screen defecation, cannibalism, buckets of blood, it's all here in The Platform as part of its critique of unfair economic systems. This commitment to grisly material in the name of social commentary isn't always successful but the ambition is consistently admirable. Director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia renders the proceedings with an appropriate sense of bleakness. All the gore and grime are depicted with such tangible nastiness that you wanna recoil away from the screen. The Platform certainly doesn't hold back in its depiction of the brutality Goreng suffers in his plight.

Unfortunately, darkness and decent world-building can't mitigate some critical shortcomings in The Platform's design. Chiefly, it doesn't end up delivering a sizeable amount of really unique sociopolitical commentary. Partially this is because The Platform refuses to directly engage in a more specific material that affects a person's economic status, like race, sexuality, and gender. This makes The Platform less like the weighty sociopolitical satires of Boots Riley or Bong Joon-Ho movie. Instead, it's more of a surface-level affair that touches upon rather than deeply explores elements related to economic inequality.

Speaking of Joon-Ho, the similarities to Snowpiercer can't help but take one out of The Platform. This is especially true Snowpiercer had so much more versatile production design and effective dark humor to offer. Nothing in The Platform comes close to the horrific brutality of that climactic scene from Snowpiercer where Chris Evans reveals the culinary-related hardships he's experienced. Even removing Snowpiercer from the equation, though, Platform underwhelms in terms of its central story. Particularly odd in its storytelling is how it's such a dark tale aiming for gritty reality. Yet it employs storytelling traits, like the sudden appearance of a wheelchair-bound man who basically lays out the rest of the plot to Goreng, that work better in a more heightened abstract production.

If The Platform was aiming for a fable-esque aesthetic, details like the sudden appearance of this character could work just fine. But in the middle of its own atmosphere that keeps shoving grim reality in the viewers face, well, these sorts of story elements stick out like a sore thumb. The Platform's script may be messy in key respects but it's far from a total loss as a movie. There's plenty of good aspects of The Platform, including its soundwork that renders each "crunch" from Trimagasi with palpable starvation. However, by the end, The Platform becomes one of those movies that mostly just reminds you of superior similar features.

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