Oxygen: Netflix Film Review

Oxygen

I love a high-concept sci-fi thriller and Oxygen didn’t disappoint – it ticked all the boxes for me and I came away truly satisfied.

The French film stars Melanie Laurent as Dr Elizabeth Hansen, who wakes up in a cryogenic pod and has no idea who she is, where she is or why she is there. The pod is slowly running out of oxygen so she must put her panic to one side to rebuild her memory and find a way out before it’s too late.

When a film has such a high-concept hook as this, it runs the risk of being unable to sustain itself for the length of a feature, but thankfully, Oxygen doesn’t fall into that trap. The gripping yet far-fetched initial idea continues to evolve and director Alexandre Aja manages to keep the momentum going throughout by slowly revealing details about Elizabeth and her situation, introducing voice characters that provide new information, and coming up with new technical threats inside the pod. The audience are as in the dark as Elizabeth is, so we’re constantly guessing what’s happening and who is telling the truth, as Elizabeth uses the AI in her pod – M.I.L.O. (voiced by Mathieu Amalric) – to contact the police and other members of the outside world for help.

It is also very difficult to keep a film with one character in one setting captivating, but Aja employs an interesting mix of dynamic camera movements and shots – such as super close-ups tightly framing a sliver of Laurent’s face – to keep it looking exciting, and adds new layers of intrigue with the voice interactions which make the mystery more complex.

But the biggest reason why Oxygen works is Laurent’s performance. With the exception of dream-like flashbacks, she is the only actor on screen and carries the entire movie easily. Her performance is commanding, captivating, and sympathetic – the audience is on her side trying to figure out the mystery – and she delivers a convincing portrayal of panic. Elizabeth is verging on hysteria at the prospect of dying in the pod but has to keep her mind sharp and think of solutions for her escape.

Aja has crafted a tense claustrophobic sci-fi thriller that grabbed onto my attention and never let it go. It flies by at a speedy pace and doesn’t outstay its welcome.

It’s worth mentioning that Netflix will automatically default to the English dubbed version but the original French is available with subtitles.

Streaming on Netflix now

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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