Sunday, May 30, 2021


Movie Name:
Year of Release: 2021
Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Melanie Laurent, Mathieu Almaric, Malik Zidi, Laura Boujenah, Eric Herson-Macarel, Marc Saez
Genre: Sci-Fi, Drama
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 6
View Trailer

Synopsis and Review:
Director Alexandre Aja is back, following his adventure in the Florida area with massive alligators which resulted in his feature "Crawl". This time around he goes back to his home country, France, and returns with one of his most interesting films. The film follows the story of Elizabeth Hansen, whom we initially discover waking up in a tight pod, with all sorts of devices connected to her. She has seemingly no recollection of how she got there, however the AI running the high tech operations, indicates she has limited oxygen, and therefore limited time to live before she ultimately dies. Elizabeth frantically tries to understand where she is, how she got there and how she can sort the situation she finds herself in. As pieces of her memories start coming back, in random order, she starts realizing she has/had a husband, and she is a scientist. She eventually manages to make outside contact with different people, and while they give her different directions, she eventually connects with someone who has the ability to answer the questions she's posing. However those answers may not be what she was looking for. As her time is running out, and she finally understands the journey she is on, she has to rely on her skills and ingenuity to save herself.
Claustrophobic tales of a single character trapped in somewhat unescapable situations, can make for some tense thrillers. Going back to Roman Polanski's examination of someone losing their grip on reality in "Repulsion", to the more recent exercises such as Rodrigo Cortes's "Buried", these are usually tales where the lead character has to trace back his/her steps, to uncover their narrative for us the audience, in a way that we progressively discover who this character is, and simultaneously empathize with the predicament they find themselves in. "Oxygen" has traces of Stanley Kubrick's "2001" (then again, which modern sci-fi film doesn't), but manages to create its own identity, by effectively building this sleuthing narrative, where the trapped character is somewhat of a detective, piecing together clues, in order to understand her current and quite possibly fatal predicament. It's a film that smartly uses the tight space to build a sense of claustrophobia and urgency, which is emphasized by its sterile environment, responses, and even how the environment itself responds aggressively to the central character. Even if the film fails to add much dimension to Elizabeth, or for that matter, to the few characters who surround her, it's nonetheless effective in establishing its premise and developing the scenario. Melanie Laurent continues to be a talent to admire, and in this film she vividly brings to life a wide breadth of emotions, ranging from sheer panic, to a progressive awakening, to finally a firm resolution of establishing the path of her own life. The cinematography from Maxime Alexandre is impeccable, as is the score from Robin Coudert. Worth watching.