TIFF 2019: The Platform – movie review

The Platform. Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

For the first time I’ve been granted press accreditation for the Toronto International Film Festival®, recognised as one of the largest and most prestigious film festivals in the world. So, I had the opportunity to watch and review a bunch of movies. This is my review of The Platform (Spain, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia, horror/sci-fi/thriller; original title: El Hoyo).

For my last review from Toronto International Film Festival I chose to focus on The Platform: in a future “dystopia”, prisoners housed in vertically stacked cells watch hungrily as food descends from above, feeding the upper tiers, but leaving those below ravenous and radicalised.

Continue reading and check my final grade below… 

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This film is clearly based on a concept that’s not new: Joon Bong-ho did something very similar in 2013 with the action-packed, sci-fi movie Snowpiercer, but the core idea dates back to 1927, when Metropolis was released. However, what The Platform excels at is the presentation: the execution of this movie undoubtedly raises it to the level of one of the very best horror films of 2019.

Based on a play, The Platform is structured as such: the film is divided in three acts, with two different main characters whose stories are intertwined in a way that avoids the ‘horror anthology’ formula. This peculiar way of presenting the story is also functional to the main concept, as the information is delivered to the audience that learns the rules of the platform together with the leads.

The Platform - image credit, courtesy of TIFF
The Platform. Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

This level of immersion, backed up by a crisp and captivating pace, turns The Platform into one of the most anxiety-filled, enthralling horror movies I’ve had the pleasure to witness in the last few years. The fantastic performances by the main actors (Ivan Massague delivers the best male performance of the year, so far) helps you sympathise with their struggle: each day, a platform of food descends from above, containing only whatever was not eaten by the upper levels, which causes those who live on lower levels to feel constantly scared and unnerved. The leads’ emotion is perfectly communicated to the audience, as though we are in the same situation as them.

Such a level of empathy is very much intended, as one of the most powerful elements of this picture is the social commentary about society and classes. The Platform is a film that refuses to beat you over the head with its agenda and, instead, it draws you in to make you feel and experiences what characters in such an awful situation would be going through. Yet, the social commentary isn’t obscure: in fact, it’s quite obvious, but it never feels forced. This is a movie that respects its audience and, in my opinion, will benefit from multiple viewings.

While constantly engaging, the first two acts of The Platform are rather self-contained and mysterious (the first one is particularly under-wraps), which only makes the third act completely satisfying: it’s violent, jaw-dropping and features some nice twists and turns that you might not have anticipated (unfortunately, I did).

All the technical features are, also, very fitting and creative: the art department did a fantastic job with the setting and production design, as everything feels storyboarded but there isn’t a single instance in the movie that takes you out of your suspension of disbelief. In other words, you get the unnerving feeling of being part of the dirty universe this film sets up from start to end.

The Platform - image credit, courtesy of TIFF
The Platform. Image credit: Courtesy of TIFF

I have a few complaints with some hints and clues spread throughout the 94-minute-long runtime, but I won’t speak about them for two reasons: first of all, they contain spoilers; secondly, I feel like a second viewing might make certain things clearer, therefore I don’t want to downgrade the movie just yet. However, the depiction of the upper levels (the upper platforms, if you will) feels too on-the-nose: I get it’s exaggerated on purpose, but more subtlety would have helped the viewer experience such a representation on a deeper, and therefore more impactful, level.

Rating 8

*As it is, this film is at least worthy of being in any respectable “best horror movies of the year” list, but I expect to get more out of it during subsequent viewings. If some of the issues I have with The Platform get improved upon multiple viewings, my grade will be updated to 9/10.

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