Reviewed by Adam Donato
Horror director Alexandre Aja returns to direct a feature for Netflix called Oxygen. Melanie Laurent stars as a woman who is stuck in a health pod and has to discover why she’s there. The film is spoken in French but dubbed in English for American audiences. Oxygen provides an at-home alternative this weekend with three wide release films coming to theaters but may find some competition on Netflix as The Mitchells Vs. The Machines came out recently and Army of the Dead releases next week. Does Oxygen stand out in its own genre enough to stand out on streaming this week?
Many films show the main character trapped in a small space trying to use their smarts to make their way out. The thing that makes Oxygen feel fresh is the futuristic setting. Liz, played by Laurent, is encased in some kind of futuristic chamber. She is “accompanied” by an OS system, M.I.L.O. voiced by Mathieu Amalric, who Liz talks to so she can try to contact the outside world. Without the memory of how she got there, Liz struggles with reality as the oxygen levels continue to decrease. This struggle puts a necessary clock on the conflict. As her oxygen gets lower, the tension rises. Simultaneously, Liz experiences all the stages of grief as she is haunted by her past life and the people that she seems to have lost.
A movie like this is only as good as its lead and Laurent does a terrific job. Her terror and sadness are both authentic. It’s hard to not feel for this seemingly innocent woman. Watching her use her cleverness to put the pieces of the puzzle together and her resilience to make it through is endearing. It’s already known that she can lead a movie, but it will be nice moving forward for her to get more widespread notoriety as the average film fan may only recognize her from Inglorious Basterds. She certainly carries the entire movie in Oxygen.
The science-fiction aspect of the movie is compelling. It’s funny to hear the excuses the story comes up with to keep her in the box. Apparently, breaking open the box is a federal offense, which is funny because who cares at that point. There are definitely a few good twists and turns in the movie as the science fiction aspect of the movie starts out extremely vague. Anybody who is not good with rats should certainly avoid the movie as they are a prominent feature as Liz has flashbacks of doing testing on lab rats and is haunted by them.
Certainly an entertaining new addition to Netflix’s now extensive film catalog. Oxygen does a great job of making a familiar concept feel new. The movie is headlined by a great lead performance from Laurent. Make sure to fit this one into your streaming schedule for an interesting science fiction movie.
Oxygen hits Netflix on May 12.