Netflix Review: Oxygen (2021)

Certificate: 15

Director: Alexandre Aja

Screenwriter: Christie LeBlanc

Starring: Mélanie Laurent, Malik Zidi, Laura Boujenah

Genre: Sci Fi, Thriller

Runtime: 100 Minutes

Language: French

Rating: 4 Stars

Reviewed by: Pearl

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A woman who wakes in a cryogenic chamber with no recollection of how she got there, must find a way out before running out of air. – From IMDB

Director Alexandre Aja has put out a couple really good horror films before this, and I have heard and read great things about both of them.  And while this film isn’t strictly a horror, those influences are definitely felt throughout this nail-biting story.  From the general feeling of ‘wrongness’ about the whole situation, to the rats (don’t get me started on how much the rates freaked me out!), to the odd jump scare thrown in there, it was clear the director couldn’t quite let go of those horror roots when shooting this one.  But rather that feeling disconnected from the rest of the film, these elements added something.  The film is set in a very tight space, and essentially stars one actress, so anything they could do to add atmosphere and interest for the audience was definitely needed.

As the audience, we are left just as in the dark as Liz throughout the whole ordeal, only learning what is going on as she does.  Se we are just as confused and on edge as she is.  I liked that the film spread it revealed out slowly throughout the film, even if I did see a good few of them coming.  None of the big reveals are really going to be that much of a shock if you frequently watch sci-fi, but the tension that is built up surrounding the gathering of these facts makes the pay-off seem a lot less cheap and predictable.

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The crowing strength of this film is it’s performance by Melanie Laurent.  This film would have been nothing without her completely knocking it out of the park.  She is the only person on screen for the vast majority of the film, and she isn’t acting opposite anything, or really have any space to emote or express herself fully.  A lot of the shots are focussed exclusively on her head and face, so it was imperative she could convey her emotions and tell the story purely through her facial expressions.  And she totally rocked it.  Such a great performance.

The countdown of how long she has until she runs out of oxygen seems to speed up and slow down as the film wishes it too, when it needs to add a little more urgency to a situation.  So we will go several minutes without MILO reminding us how much time is left, then seem to get a series of updates in very rapid succession.  So while the film is supposed to take place almost in real time, the actual countdown is inconsistent.  But that really is only a small issue.

I had a blast with this, and would recommend to anyone who loves sci-fi to give it a shot.

‘Oxygen’ is streaming now on Netflix.

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