Oxygen is not only an intense burner from start to end, it also finishes on a note that pleases and makes sense.
A woman wakes up in a cryogenics chamber with no clue as to who she is, why she’s in the chamber, or even where she’s located. Neither is MILO, the medical care AI, able to help; not without asking the right questions anyway. Worse, her oxygen supply dwindles by the minute, plummeting further whenever she gets agitated. It will only be a little more than an hour before the woman dies a painful, lonely death by suffocation. That is, unless she finds a way to correctly use MILO.
While reading the promo for this Netflix sci-fi feature, I was reminded of a very similar movie that I watched ten years ago.
Ryan Reynolds’ Buried. Which featured the same buried/trapped somewhere ordeal in a closer-to-home setting. Which I didn’t like the ending for despite the accolades the movie received.
I was thus “primed” as to what to expect with Oxygen, for the lack of a better word. I expected it to be a one-woman tour-de-force by two-time César Awards winner Mélanie Laurent. I knew truths would unfold like a mandala too; perhaps I should say, piece together.
What I wasn’t sure, on the other hand, was how it’s all going to wrap up. Like whodunits and espionage flicks, many such movies often weave a story so rich, nothing can sensibly chain together in the end.
Well, Oxygen’s ending is largely coherent, I’m pleased to say. Non-sci-fi lovers would require some degree of active suspension of belief to appreciate. Some viewers might find the escape room solutions too convenient too. But it does mostly makes sense. As well as finalises the bigger picture framing the story.
Without surprise, Laurent was spectacular as well with the gamut of emotions she depicts, everything from steeliness to desolation, to firey rebelliousness. Hereby, I give mention too to the infuriating stupidity and aloofness of MILO the AI, be it in the French original or the English-dubbed version. Could the character be a sly dig at the atrocious automated customer service helplines that we all have to suffer so often?
This is one vice-like slow burner from start to end. One that effectively traps you in the same claustrophobic prison the protagonist finds herself in. The superb acting and masterpiece camerawork ensure you feel every minute of her trauma too.
For the quick-eyed, a handful of yummy clues are scattered across the first half. Embarrassingly, I only realised after the big truth is presented. I strongly encourage you to be on the lookout for these.
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