Netflix Review – The Platform (El Hoyo): It’s Not Subtle (Ending Explained)

A new Sci-Fi Dystopian Prison film comes out of Spain and it’s brutally honest and honestly brutal. 

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Goreng (Iván Massagué) is an intellectual who volunteers to be sent to “The Pit,” an experimental prison, for 6 months. He brings a copy of Don Quixote with him and is told that, upon his release, he’ll be given a degree. Once inside, he finds out that the prison consists of a single vertical array of rooms with a large hole in the middle, with 2 prisoners in each room. His roommate, Trimagasi (Zorion Eguileor), explains that food comes down from the top on a single platform and each floor of the prison eats off of it in order. Floor 1 eats ravenously, but the lower floors often don’t get anything. Moreover, everyone only gets randomly reassigned every month. Survival is king.

Platform - 1First
Cinematography is clearly a prince.

END SUMMARY

This was last year’s Midnight Madness winner at the Toronto International Film Festival, whose past winners include such films as The Raid, What We Do In the Shadows, and Seven Psychopaths, so that’s an award that’s usually worth looking into. This film is no exception. It mostly works for two reasons: 

Platform - 2SevenPsychopaths
Any award that recognizes Tom Waits holding a bunny is a good award.

First, it’s incredibly minimalist, typically featuring no more than three characters on screen at any given time, and almost always just two. Because of this, the quality of the dialogue and the performances is crucial, since a lot of the film is just the characters talking. Fortunately, Massagué gives an amazing performance, going from naive to panicked to nihilist to messianic as the situation requires. Eguileor’s character is much more consistent, always seeming to be a polite, charming, even funny individual who nevertheless exudes an air of menace. Their interactions manage to carry much of the film.

Platform - 3Eguilor
Yes, a guy reading Don Quixote with a knife is somewhat charming.

Second, the premise is amazing. It’s extremely simple and basically begs to be implied intuitively as a metaphor. The movie repeatedly emphasizes that, if everyone only ate what they needed, there would be enough food for everyone. Additionally, every prisoner is aware that, at almost any time, they could be either at the top or at the bottom, completely at the whims of a seemingly random system that clearly has no concern for their welfare. Despite that, the people at the top take advantage of their position and gorge and the people at the bottom starve to death. So, a system where everyone could be equitable and live happily or a few people can thrive at the expense of the people below them. I’m not saying it’s a giant metaphor for society, but… well, it’s a giant metaphor for society. 

Platform - 4Table
This is how the table starts. 

I’ll warn you that the movie is a hard-R with nudity and a lot of gross stuff featured, but if that is something you can stomach, I really recommend this movie. 

**** ENDING EXPLAINED (Spoilers) ****

So, quick recap:

After the first month, Goreng and Trimagasi end up on Floor 171, where Goreng and Miharu (Alexandra Masangkay) kill Trimagasi before he can eat Goreng. Goreng then ends up on Floor 33 with Imoguiri (Antonia San Juan), who worked for the company that made the Pit. She says there are 200 floors. They end up getting put on floor 202 next, where she kills herself so that Goreng can eat her body. Goreng then ends up on Floor 6 with Baharat (Emilio Buale Coka), a zealot who is trying to escape the prison, but is thwarted by the people on the above floors. Goreng convinces Baharat to ride the platform down to feed all of the people who would normally starve. On the way down, they encounter Sr. Brambang (Eric Goode, but not the one who made Tiger King) who advises them that feeding people will not change the system. First, they have to try and convince people to change, only enacting violence if they refuse to voluntarily change. Second, they need to realize that the administration will never change the system, but the people on floor 0, the ones who feed the prisoners, they could change it. Systems are cold and unfeeling, but people can be brought to empathize. So, they should send a dish back to level 0, untouched, to show that the people in the prison are, indeed, people, and not animals. That they have self-control and dignity. So, they select a Panna Cotta to send back up.

Platform - 5PannaCotta
I admit that I really want to eat that.

However, they discover that the prison is deeper than even Goreng had estimated, ending on floor 333 (halfway to 666, or Hell), where a small girl is found, despite Imoguiri saying that there were no children in the facility. It’s implied to be Miharu’s daughter who she kept riding down the platform for, although Imoguiri’s statement about her background contradicts it. Given that most of Imoguiri’s information was wrong, it’s very possible that the child was Miharu’s. As Miharu supposedly threw a body down the shaft and then rode the platform down every month, it’s possible that the only reason that the child survived was that Miharu rode down every month with a mostly full platform to feed her. Since Miharu died this time, she couldn’t get down. They end up feeding the girl the panna cotta then, after Baharat dies, Goreng puts her on the platform to return to Floor 0. He sees an image of Trimagasi and walks off into the darkness under the facility. 

Platform - 6Child
Good light and shadow work, sad that I CAN’T SCREENSHOT NETFLIX.

So, what happens at the end of the movie? Well, he sends the girl as the message, because proving that the people in the facility could keep a child alive shows that they are human better than the panna cotta could have. He doesn’t need to go with her, because sending him, particularly in the state that he is in and after all the things he did, will ruin the message. He’s no longer innocent or pure, unlike the child. While the child cannot convince the system to change, showing that such an innocent figure is being tormented by the system stands a high chance of reminding the people on Floor 0 to change things. The platform has to go past floor 333 first, allowing Goreng to walk off into the underground, implied to be his death as Trimagasi is no longer just a vision, but next to him. 

Platform - 7Ending
He’s not quite dead yet, though, or he wouldn’t be bloody.

Metaphorically, it means that Goreng realizes that you can’t fix things just by helping people within the system, and you can’t actually fight “The System” because it doesn’t have a conscious to be changed. Instead, the only way to make change is to appeal to the humanity in those who run it.

Overall, I appreciate that the film actually gives a solution, rather than just saying “things are really shitty.” As to whether I think it’s a real option, that’s a separate issue. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Netflix Review – Russian Doll: A New Take on Groundhog Day (Spoiler-Free and Ending Explained)

Natasha Lyonne, Amy Poehler, and Leslye Headland bring you this story of a woman who can’t stop dying.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Nadia Vulvokov (Natasha Lyonne) is a 36 year old software engineer who hooks up with a guy named Mike (Jeremy Lowell Bobb) at her birthday party hosted by her friend Maxine (Greta Lee) and attended by Lizzy (Rebecca Henderson), Nadia’s friend, and Ruth (Elizabeth Ashley), Nadia’s surrogate mother. Later that night, while trying to find her missing cat, Nadia is hit by a car and dies.

RussianDoll - 1Bathroom
However, her hair is unaffected.

She awakes back at the same birthday party. She finds out that she is now on fate’s hit list. Every cycle, within a few hours to a few days, she dies somehow (usually violently) and restarts at the same time at the party. She works to figure out exactly what it is that she needs to do to move on with her life.

RussianDoll - 2.jpg
However, she does not learn how to look where she’s going.

END SUMMARY

So, as I pointed out in my list of 5 (really 7) Groundhog Day episodes of television, there are a LOT of TV shows and films that use the mechanic of one person re-living the same experience over and over again. Groundhog Day isn’t the first, but it’s probably the most famous because of how well that movie portrayed the cycle, with it always being one day, whether Bill Murray’s character Phil Connors lived to the end of it, but others have played with the length of the loop or the mechanics of remembering. Edge of Tomorrow (or Live. Die. Repeat.) was basically the first-person-shooter video game situation played out through a movie. ARQ was about loops where multiple people can remember the loop. Run Lola Run allowed the rebooted Lola’s previous lives to physically impact the next run. Doctor Strange uses a time-loop to force a deity-level threat to give up trying to take over Earth. Happy Death Day puts a survivor girl in a slasher film in a position to get killed repeatedly while trying to figure out how to beat the killer. It’s a fairly used trope, to say the least, which is why it’s good that this TV show manages to make the show more about the characters, particularly Nadia, rather than about the mechanism itself, one of the things that Groundhog Day excelled in. Also, it manages to not mention a single one of the above movies, but doesn’t make it obvious that they’re NOT mentioning them, so you don’t really think about it.

RussianDoll - 5Friends
Her friends are usually drunk when she starts the loop.

The first few episodes, as you’d expect, are mostly Nadia trying to figure out what’s happening. While she doesn’t immediately jump to “I’m in a time loop,” the exploration period actually doesn’t feel too long, because she thinks of more rational explanations like “I’ve been drugged” or “I’m going crazy” before she hits “Space-time continuum rip” or whatever. After that, it’s about trying to stop the loops. It gives the season enough variety to not feel overly repetitive, even for a show that’s literally about repeating things.

RussianDoll - 4Drugs
To be fair, she does do drugs.

The acting and writing are both amazing, with full credit to Lyonne for doing both at different points, including doing the script for the excellent season finale. Her performance conveys her feelings of uncertainty, both about her life and about the loops, while also putting forth her insecurities and inner strength. She’s a real person, though not a genre savvy one, being found in a crazy situation. Her interactions with her co-stars, particularly Charlie Barnett’s Alan Zaveri, are all excellent and each connection fleshes the character out further.

RussianDoll - 3Elevator
Chemistry… just a weird kind.

Overall, this is a solid show. It just keeps getting better with more elements added until the great ending. Cinematography, acting, writing, and direction are all top notch. Give it a try. Speaking of endings, however, that brings us to the…

****SPOILERS****

If you’ve seen the show, you know that eventually Nadia runs into Alan Zaveri, another person who is reliving the loops, in fact looping at the same time as Nadia. Alan is revealed to have killed himself out of despair at the same moment that Nadia was killed by the car during her first loop. We then watch the loops start to degrade, with the universe going away, until finally Nadia lets go of her past guilt over leaving her Mother (Chloe Sevigny) who ended up dying and Alan gives up pursuing Beatrice (Dascha Polanco), his girlfriend of 9 years who has been the focus of much of his life. After both of them finally get past their hangups, they find out that they have looped again… but separately. There are now two universes: One in which Nadia remembers Alan and another where Alan remembers Nadia, and each of them now has to save the other. So, what happened?

RussianDoll - 6Split
Mirroring is a thing in the show.

Well, the show doesn’t definitively say it, but the leads to propose an idea and I think the narrative reinforces it: Both of them were supposed to be saved. Nadia was supposed to save Alan, which would lead to her not being killed by the car. Instead, because Nadia was having a crisis over her birthday (due to it being the age her mom died), she made a different, self-destructive choice. Alternatively, Alan should have kept Nadia from sleeping with Mike, which would have saved her life, but instead Alan chose to wallow in despair and kill himself. When each of them manages to truly move past what’s keeping them stuck in the past, time finally resets. If you’re wondering why it’s degrading, I think it’s the universe’s way of saying that they either need to move forward or the deaths will just stick. Nadia’s takes longer, because it’s harder for her to move past, which is why her last few deaths are more graphic than Alan’s.

RussianDoll - 7Glass.png
Particularly this one.

However, while both of them are now the kind of people who can save the other, they’re no longer the kind of people that need saving. In other words, they’d be violating causality if they reset together, so the universe solves the problem by splitting them into two different worlds: One with the old Alan and the new Nadia, another with it the other way around. Then, we watch the worlds play out, finally seeming to merge in the last scene, with everything the way that it was supposed to be.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.