Oxygen (2021) Breathlessly Adds New Dimensions to Single Location Horror
First Wide Release: May 21, 2021 (Digital/Streaming Platforms)
Director: Alexandre Aja
Writer: Christie LeBlanc
Runtime: 100 Minutes
Starring: Mélanie Laurent, Malik Zidi, Laura Boujenah
Where to Watch: Check out where to find it here
Waking up in an enclosed cryogenic freezing pod, a woman, who we later learn to be Liz (Melanie Laurent), struggles to remember who she is and how she ended up there. Unfortunately for her, it seems that whatever reason she is stuck in this predicament is only getting worse now that her chamber is depleting oxygen at a rapidly alarming pace. Utilizing nothing more than her instincts, she works to figure out a solution to her impending doom while seeking answers to why she is placed in this position in the first place.
Executed with finesse, Oxygen knocks it out of the park with this wonderfully twisted cryogenic chamber sci-fi mystery.
Longtime genre filmmaker Alexandre Aja does it again with this tense and captivating sci-fi thriller. Viewers are immediately thrown into the action along with Liz, as she comes to terms with her daunting situation while doing everything in her power to survive. While some truths can be discovered easily, others are hard to pinpoint unless one is specifically looking for them. This makes Oxygen a tantalizing mystery for those who love to solve puzzles with frustrating amounts of dead-end clues.
An understated quality to Oxygen is its high production values. Coated in a glossy and sleek veneer, it is dazzling visually showcasing a wide range of bright colors and startling images. It’s helped by wonderful art design and smooth editing to bring all the ideas together. The transitions flow beautifully, and the quick cuts add to the disorienting nature of the film, beating a steady pace for the heartbeat of the film. Aja and co come up with dynamic and creative ways to keep the cryogenic pod feeling invigorating. And they only resort to a few flashbacks to do it!
While many aspects of Oxygen showcase the talent both on and off the screen, nothing compares to how big they make the movie feel despite its claustrophobic setting. Compact with well-written and justifiable dialogue, the film hits the perfect balance between silence and human communication to let the terror marinate. Word choices and diction play a big role in unraveling the many red herrings and twists the film throws at the viewers. It’s the commitment to the concept and sprinkling in these details that makes Oxygen special.
Despite being confined and awake for a short amount of time, Liz’s character goes through so much in order to survive. Laurent gives an exceptional performance, expertly navigating the fear, determination, and grit to survive and propelling the feature to new heights. By sheer power of will and wit, she works to save herself from such an unusual circumstance. Therein lies the main message of the film, on how humans can survive even the direst of scenarios when using their mind and refusing to crumble under pressure.
In the way of criticism, there’s not much to lob at Aja’s latest feature. Aside from some pacing issues towards the end, there isn’t much to detract here. Personally, the ticking time trope is a bit distracting, especially when it gets to the end and oxygen levels are dangerously low yet stretching on for more-than-generous amounts of time does it take more impatient viewers out of the experience. A few tweaks to the percentages themselves could go a long way to remedying that issue.
A fantastically thrilling sci-fi mystery with a few horror twists, Oxygen is an ambitious high concept rollercoaster ride with enough turns to animate the weariest moviegoer. Aja pulls off, yet again, another excellent genre film packed with incredible visuals, inspired direction, and a phenomenal performance by Laurent. I wholeheartedly recommend this French treat to anyone and everyone who will listen. Easily accessible to even the most squeamish of cinephiles, Oxygen is sure to get your heart pumping like you too only have minutes left of air to breathe.
Overall Score? 7.5/10