Oxygen

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Netflix has a thing for sci-fi thrillers about people confined to a small space with diminishing air. That description describes the plot of Oxygen which came out on May 12, but coincidentally also applies to Stowaway released last month. If you haven’t seen either and can only handle one similar premise, this is the one to watch.

The chronicle concerns Elizabeth Hansen, a young (thirtysomething) woman who wakes up in a cryogenic pod the size of a coffin. Elizabeth has no memory of who she is or how she got there. She has been entombed and must find a way to escape. Her very life is at stake. The inability to even sit upright is also reminiscent of Buried, the 2010 drama starring Ryan Reynolds.

What elevates the story is Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds, Now You See Me). She is the MVP. This is essentially a one-woman show in which she convincingly portrays confusion, exasperation, and panic to the astonishment of an audience that fully appreciates the agony of her situation. Occasionally flashbacks of her past provide a reprieve to the claustrophobia. Her predicament is an experience and that is where the production uncomfortably entertains.

If she has a co-star, it is the informative computer within the hi-tech chamber. MILO (Mathieu Amalric) is a disembodied voice that constantly relays helpful information on Elizabeth’s declining resources. Though Mathieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Quantum of Solace) is never seen, his contribution is a key ingredient. His soothing tones are both comforting and sinister. There is a real HAL 9000 vibe to his matter-of-fact delivery in the face of dire circumstances. I did enjoy their exchanges.

Oxygen is director Alexandre Aja’s (Piranha 3D, Crawl) first French-language film since High Tension in 2003. Side note. The default setting for international programs on Netflix is the English dub. You will have to manually select French with subtitles to hear this in its original format. It’s nice to have options, but I prefer when the actor’s mouth and words are perfectly in sync. This is a surprisingly restrained effort from the horror maestro. There are moments where Elizabeth must pull bloodied tubes and long needles out of her body and then insert them back in. However, that is the zenith of the gore. I appreciated the focus on emotional rather than physical terror.

In the end, Oxygen is a fine movie. It manages to entertain with a compelling performance. However, there is no earthly reason why such a simple tale should require 1 hour and 41 minutes. The account would have been much more efficient and effective as a 60 minute (or less) episode on an anthology series for TV. The extreme length really taxes the viewer’s patience. It doesn’t support what is essentially an impressive acting exercise limited by a restrained location. The considerable skills of Melanie Laurent are the highlight.

05-14-21

8 Responses to “Oxygen”

  1. I have not seen Buried either. How would you say Oxygen compares to the way they handle their limited set-up in that movie? Or would you recommend one over the other?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Pretty intense and claustrophobic. It was pretty good. Kept wondering what was gonna happen. Ending was a trip. 3 ⭐️

    Like

  3. nice review as always. i recently got Netflix and agree with part of your first paragraph, regarding the similarity between Oxygen and Stowaway. i also squeezed in ‘Ice Road’ as a movie that involves diminishing oxygen . (hope you can drop by my site to read 1 post reviewing all three movies)

    As for your review, you pointed out a noticeable flaw in Oxygen, that it is too long.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’ll check out your site. Glad to see you’re still writing. 👍🏼

      Like

      • thank you Mark. its great to see you consistently writing as well. i’ve read other blogs before but yours seems to have more knowledge and passion, so am enjoying your blog more (despite opinion differences). i write whenever there is time within the family life, but its definitely a hobby that’s going to stay in one way or another.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. am not sure if my username link works. hoping this one does.

    Liked by 1 person

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