More people need to watch this tense Netflix survival thriller
Stuck in infinityscroll? Looking for something to actually watch, not partially watch while you’re on your phone? Open this Netflix search query now and type in “Oxygen”.
Otherwise known as Oxygène, this 2021 French survival thriller stars Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) as a woman trapped in a claustrophobic capsule with diminished oxygen supply. Her performance combined with the evocative score and requisite twists attached me to her plight for each of its 101 minutes.
Oxygen creates tension right from the start. Our protagonist, wrapped in a strange fabric while lying on her back, becomes aware. It’s dark and a flashing red light illuminates her struggle to break through her scary second skin. She exits out of breath.
Soon, the public knows a little more about this woman with blue eyes and blond hair. She is locked in a cryogenic capsule and will eventually be unable to breathe. She is also missing virtually any useful memory of who she is and how she ended up there.
An AI called MILO (for “Medical Interface Liaison Operator”) talks to him through his dire situation, which gives off frustrating vibes akin to an automated phone menu. MILO is stubborn about the way Laurent’s character frames questions, but it helps him in some ways. With help/unhelp from MILO, she desperately searches for a way out of her predicament.
More discerning viewers may feel differently, but I started the film as flabbergasted as Laurent’s character about what could have landed her in that capsule. The answers come in the form of massive twists.
The mystery keeps viewers invested, as does the spacious sci-fi score and urgent pacing.
Then there is the character of Laurent. A movie entirely about a woman stuck in a futuristic box has to have a pretty compelling woman in that box. I felt her terror, despair and anger as she faced the likelihood of a horrific death and other incredibly unfair aspects of her plight.
There are a couple of things I didn’t like about this movie. For example, Laurent’s trapped character makes no attempt to calm down and retain his life support (which is, of course, easy for that viewer sitting in a comfortable chair to get bored).
Throughout the film, Laurent’s character sees shards of memories that don’t seem to help him much beyond a scene near the very end. And this scene is informal – she needs to find something in the present and suddenly she remembers it from the past.
But these issues didn’t spoil my viewing experience too much. All in all, Oxygen did the one thing I always want a movie to do: it gripped me from the protagonist’s first tense breath to the end. I would sit back and look at everything again.
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