The Platform ★★★

Sometimes all you need to make a decent movie is a lot of food, a brilliant set, and a single metaphor stretched two hours long and several hundred stories tall. Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s “The Platform” is not a subtle film. But these are unsubtle times, with unsubtle problems, and the most alarming thing about this grimly affecting Spanish allegory — which literalizes capitalism’s dehumanizing verticality with twice the gross-out terror of “Parasite,” and almost half of that masterpiece’s furious grace — is that it sometimes doesn’t seem like an allegory at all.

Like “Cube,” “Saw,” and even “The Exterminating Angel” before it, “The Platform” is the sort of (largely) single-location horror movie that’s defined by its premise. Somewhere in the not-so-distant-future — or perhaps a Camus-esque alternate version of now — hundreds of people are trapped in a narrow cement skyscraper that has more levels than any of the prisoners housed there could ever hope to count. The company that owns the place has branded it a “Vertical Self-Management Center,” but its occupants refer to it only as “The Pit,” a reference to the large rectangular elevator shaft of a hole that’s cut into the center of each floor; look down over the edge and the abyss seems bottomless.

The rules of the Pit are simple: There are two inmates on every floor, both of them are randomly assigned to a new floor together at the start of each month, and their only sustenance is served on a giant smorgasbord of food that magically descends through the gap at the center of the tower every 24 hours. This movable feast is fit for a king when it’s first lowered down from the Michelin-worthy kitchen atop the Pit, as the people on the top floor are treated to a royal banquet’s worth of kobe beef, glazed duck, vintage wine, decadent cakes, and even the odd plate of escargot. The prisoners are only allowed a few minutes to gobble up as much grub as they can before their leftovers are lowered to the people on the floor below them, whose leftovers are then lowered to the people on the floor below them, whose leftovers are then lowered to the people on the floor below them, and so on for nobody knows how long.

By the time the platform reaches level 48, the turkey leg has been chewed down to a few errant strips of saliva-covered meat. By the time it reaches level 80, the smorgasbord has been reduced to a dirty tray of silverware. If the prisoners on the top levels only took what they needed, there’d be enough food for everyone. But — spoiler alert for human nature! — that’s not how things go down, and those consigned to the depths of the Pit are left with little choice but to eat each other alive. What a far-fetched idea.

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