Netflix’s viral new thriller is set in what sounds like a stodgy WeWork facility: the “Vertical Self-Management Center.” But the people trapped inside refer to it by a more evocative title—“The Hole”—because the building is, in fact, a skyscraperlike prison with a giant void in the middle. This hole is central to The Platform’s disturbing premise: An inmate named Goreng wakes up and learns that he is in a concrete reformatory composed of hundreds of levels. Each day, an elaborate feast is laid out on the titular platform, which drops from floor to floor. Each level can only eat the leftovers of those above. There’s supposedly enough food for everyone—if the prisoners only eat what they need.
The Spanish director Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s film (originally titled El hoyo) isn’t a delicate satire. The people on the top levels always gorge themselves so that by the time the table reaches the lower floors, there’s nothing left. But the current resonance of The Platform’s brutalist portrait of real-life inequality is not hard to understand right now, during an unprecedented global pandemic.
The movie premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival in September but has rocketed up Netflix’s most-popular list in recent weeks as existing disparities widen around the world and in the U.S. The movie’s portrayal of avarice and desperation in response to scarcity cuts close to the bone in a moment when states are competing for respirators, panic shopping has left grocery shelves bare, price gouging is rampant, scammers are offering fake tests and vaccines, and the most vulnerable Americans have become only more endangered. In The Platform, the decisions of a select few in the highest echelons determine the survival of those below them. The film is as heavy-handed as it sounds, but these aren’t subtle times.