Mélanie Laurent stars in Oxygen.
Stuck in the endlessscroll? Searching for something to actually watch, not partially watch while you’re on your phone? Open that Netflix search query now and type “Oxygen.”
Otherwise known as Oxygène, this 2021 French survival thriller stars Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds) as a woman trapped in a claustrophobic pod with a dwindling supply of oxygen. Her performance combined with the evocative score and requisite twists tethered me to her dire plight for every one of its 101 minutes.
Watch Oxygen on Netflix
See at Netflix
Oxygen builds tension right from the off. Our protagonist, wrapped in strange material while lying on her back, gains consciousness. It’s dark, and a blinking red light illuminates her struggle to break through her creepy second skin. She emerges gasping for air.
Soon, the audience knows a few more things about this blue-eye, blonde-haired woman. She’s locked in a cryogenic pod and will eventually be unable to breathe. She’s also lacking virtually any helpful memory about who she is and how she ended up there.
Talking her through her terrible circumstance is an AI called MILO (for “Medical Interface Liaison Operator”), which gives off frustrating vibes akin to an automated phone menu. MILO is stubborn about how Laurent’s character phrases questions, but it does assist her in some ways. With the help/non-help of MILO, she desperately seeks a way out of her tight spot.
Well, that doesn’t look too good.
More perceptive viewers may feel differently, but I began the film as flabbergasted as Laurent’s character about what could have landed her in that pod. The answers come in the form of massive twists.
The mystery keeps viewers invested, as does the spacious sci-fi score and urgent pace.
Then there’s Laurent’s character. A movie entirely about a woman stuck in a futuristic box needs to have a pretty compelling woman in that box. I felt her terror, desperation and anger as she contended with the probability of a horrible death and other incredibly unfair aspects of her predicament.
MILO is full of valuable information.. getting them out of it is the tough part.
There are a couple of things I didn’t love about this film. For instance, Laurent’s trapped character makes no attempt whatsoever to calm down and conserve her life support (which is, of course, easy for this viewer sitting in a comfy chair to be annoyed about).
Throughout the film, Laurent’s character sees fragments of memories that don’t seem to help her much beyond one scene close to the very end. And that scene is unceremonious — she needs to find something in the present and suddenly just remembers it from the past.
But those issues didn’t dampen my viewing experience too much. In all, Oxygen did the one thing I always want a flick to do: It gripped me from the protagonist’s first strained breath all the way through to the end. I’d strap back in and watch it all over again.
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