When I browse Netflix looking for a movie to watch, my own carelessness often gets in the way of the hunt. I have no idea what I’m looking for. I know it’s something exciting enough to make me neglect the entertainment apps on my phone. But that doesn’t narrow it down much, does it?
Oxygène, the 2021 French survival thriller, had me hooked from the protagonist’s first tense breath. The film stars Mélanie Laurent (Inglorious Basterds, Illusion) as a woman trapped in a claustrophobic capsule with a depleted supply of oxygen. Thanks to Laurent’s central performance, amazing soundtrack and numerous twists and turns, I was completely consumed by her terrible plight.
Oxygen sets the tension early. Our protagonist, wrapped in a strange material, lying on his back, regains consciousness. It’s dark in there, and a flashing red light illuminates her attempts to break through her eerie second skin. She emerges gasping for air.
Soon the audience will learn something else about this blue-eyed blonde woman. She is locked in a cryogenic chamber and will soon be unable to breathe. She also lacks little to no useful memories of who she is or how she got here.
Talks to her about her dire circumstances by an AI named MILO (for “Medical Interface Communications Operator”) that emits annoying vibrations similar to the phone’s automatic menu (well, MILO is stubborn about how she phrases questions, but it really helps her in some ways). With or without MILO’s help, she desperately searches for a way out of her predicament.
More discerning viewers may think differently, but I started the film just like Laurent’s character, amazed at what could have landed her in that capsule. The answers come in the form of massive turns.
The mystery keeps audiences on their toes, as does the expansive sci-fi soundtrack and fast-paced pace.
Then Laurent. The movie is all about a woman stuck in a futuristic box, should have a pretty attractive woman in that box. I felt her horror, despair, and anger as she struggled with the possibility of a gruesome death and other unfair aspects of her predicament.
There are a couple of things I didn’t like about this movie. For example, the trapped Laurent character makes no attempt to calm down and maintain his life support system (which, of course, easily irritates this viewer sitting in a comfortable chair in the living room).
Throughout the film, Laurana’s character sees flashbacks that seem to do little to help her, with the exception of one scene towards the very end. And this scene is unceremonious – she needs to find something in the present, and she suddenly just remembers this from the past.
But these issues didn’t affect my browsing experience too much. All in all, Oxygen did what I’ve always wanted a movie to do but can never get through a Netflix search: it completely grabbed my attention for a full hour and a half. I would buckle up again and do it again.
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