French film Oxygen (Oxygen) created on Netflix
Director Alexandre Aja is known for his work in the horror genre, including High tension, Crawl and The hills Have Eyes. He creates with Oxygen, written by Christie LeBlanc and produced by Vincent Maraval, Brahim Chioua and Noëmie Devide for Getaway Films, a thriller with echoes of what we’ve all been through this year. It’s a claustrophobic hour-and-a-half movie, with a lot of screaming and crying (I mean, wouldn’t you do that if you got stuck in a confined space?), But it’s a movie that turns out to be much more than its premise states. The mystery at the center of this story – who is this young woman, where is she, how she got there – will keep you hooked.
Mélanie Laurent is quite phenomenal, carrying this thriller thriller through her performance alone. The film opens as Laurent’s character wakes up, wrapped in a sheet of plastic that she carefully tears to free himself. She soon discovers that she is confined to a high-tech space resembling a coffin. She is not completely alone. She is able to communicate with the on-board computer named MILO (voiced by Mathieu Almaric), which dispenses facts.
The first thing MILO informs him of is the current state of the oxygen level. He’s at 35%, and due to his panic, the oxygen level is dropping rapidly. Director Aja and screenwriter LeBlanc have basically created here a countdown, a countdown, until she runs out of oxygen, a tense situation in which the main character must quickly find a solution in order to survive. But, in order to do that, she needs to know who she is, how she got into that capsule, and where exactly she is.
Memories of what she believes to be her past resurface, but it comes in flash. It is by deciphering her memories and the factual help of MILO that she will be able to reconstruct who she is and how she ended up in this cryogenic capsule.
Oxygen is a well put together movie. Aja reinforces the feeling of claustrophobia by framing Laurent in extremely close-ups that are sometimes very uncomfortable, or the feeling of disorientation when the camera turns on its axis at a moment of puzzling revelation for the character. The image also vibrates at times to the rhythm of the character’s accelerated heartbeat to highlight moments of anxiety. There is constant play with what lies beyond the frame.
The film showcases Aja and screenwriter LeBlanc’s great ability to create tension and big twists, but in the end you want more. The big twists open up many intriguing questions, some quite philosophical, which unfortunately are not explored at all. The film only scratches the surface of these rather fascinating questions, without further developing the answers and what they imply.
That said, Oxygen is a very entertaining, well-crafted and gripping thriller. The tension of the ticking, in the form of the decrease in oxygen percentage, and the mystery surrounding Laurent’s character will keep you hooked.
The film rose to number 5 of the 10 best Netflix movies in the United States a day after its release.