The latest Netflix movie release is the French sci-fi thriller Oxygen, which is the latest film by Alexandre Aja, the director of Crawl, Horns, and The Hills Have Eyes. You may realise that those films don’t seem to have much in common, and Oxygen continues that trend. The best comparison I can give you is the Ryan Reynolds film from 2010, Buried.
Alexandre Aja makes a very different kind of confined spaces thriller to follow up his great “Crawl” in this week’s also-great “Oxygen,” premiere on Netflix. It may have been in development before the world knew anything about COVID-19 (and once had Anne Hathaway attached), but this truly feels like the most 'pandemic thriller' yet in its own unpredictable way. It’s a film about isolation, loss, and an uncertain future. It also shows how much better the director can do with a sparse script (written by Christie LeBlanc).
Shot in July 2020, it clearly reflects all of the international concerns about diminishing oxygen intakes even as it unfolds in a manner that seems unimaginable. Most of all, it features a stunning performance from the great Mélanie Laurent (“Inglourious Basterds”), who owns the screen as the film’s only real character. With robust direction in an incredibly confined space and Laurent’s phenomenal work, “Oxygen” should feel like a breath of fresh air for people looking for something to watch on Netflix.
In Oxygen, Melanie Laurent plays a woman who wakes up in a cryogenic sleep chamber with no idea who she is, where she is, why she is there, or what she can do to get out. Immediately, you are thrust into claustrophobia with her, and that is only made worse when a counter tells you that the pod only has 34 percent of its oxygen remaining. Unlike Buried, there is one other constant besides our main character. A computer system named MILO (voiced by Mathieu Amalric), who helps our character through her situation.
If you’re wondering why I am not using the character’s name, it is because she doesn’t initially have one. One of the fun aspects of the film is that we know as much as the main character knows so she’s learning everything at the same time we do. We know she’s stuck in this chamber and low on oxygen but we have to try to understand why she might be there along with her. This is where the movie is great.
In a film that takes place almost entirely in one place, things could get boring very fast, but Oxygen avoids this by having the main character searching her memory for pieces of information. During those scenes, we are taken out of the pod into short clips of memories that she is having. Also, the pod that she is in is very technologically advanced so as she regains memories, she can ask MILO questions and he can show her newspaper clips, social media accounts, and even make calls for her.
There is no point in Oxygen where the story isn’t advancing in some way. Because of her situation, the main character is desperate and she is successful in making contact with the world outside the pod. However, we learn that her isolation could cause her to hallucinate, so then we are forced to question everything we learned up to that point and everything we might learn later. There were several points within this film where I was literally on the edge of my seat.
Oxygen is the type of movie you have to be completely engaged for to enjoy. It’s a thinking drama, so if you are the type that likes mysteries or trying to figure out what is going on in a film, then Oxygen is the type of movie for you.
Oxygen is a ride. Once again, we are learning everything at the same time that our main character is and her reactions to new information almost mirrored my thoughts throughout the movie. When you learn that this is a medical pod, you will ask if she is sick. If so, what is her illness? When the pod tells you that it cannot give you its location, you will question why that is. As she figures out a person’s name and we get glimpses of this person, you will ask if they are truly an ally or if they are her kidnapper. When she calls the cops, you will ask if she was really speaking to the cops or someone else.
The movie worked for me because as you start to get answers, nothing that you learned early in the movie is invalidated. There’s a reason that makes sense for everything that we were wrong or even mislead about. Now when I say mislead, I say that to mean that if you simply follow our main character’s reactions and trust her memories then you might feel like you were misled at points.
The fear with a movie like this where you know there will be a huge reveal by the end is that the ride may be enjoyable but the ending may end up being unsatisfying. That may be the case for some but I found the ending to be perfect. You get huge relief after huge reveal near the end of the film but the final scene ends on a great note. Oxygen was a fun ride that ends on a strong note.
Do give it a watch on netflix !!