Directed by: Alexandre Aja | 100 minutes | drama, fantasy | Actors: Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi, Laura Boujenah, Lyah Valade | Original voice cast: Eric Herson-Macarel, Anie Balestra, Marc Saez, Cathy Cerda, Marie Lemiale, Pascal Germain
Being cooped up in a small space is no fun. Being locked in a small space without knowing where you are is a nightmare. Being locked in a small space without knowing where you are and who you are… words are not enough. Yet that is what happens in the thrilling sci-fi thriller ‘Oxygène’. In it, a young woman awakens in a high-tech capsule, with medical monitors on the wall and needles and tubes in her body. And with the alarming message that the oxygen in the capsule is low.
In the hour and a half of ‘Oxygène’ we follow our heroine in her quest for answers and solutions. She receives help from the on-board computer MILO, which not only speaks to her reassuringly, but also projects pictures on the wall and acts as a telephone line with the outside world. MILO is empathetic in his own way, although his solution to all the world’s problems is somewhat one-sided: offering a sedative.
That recurring sedative provides some humor in a film that is otherwise especially exciting. And ingenious. Films like ‘Buried’, ‘Den Skyldige’ and ‘127 Hours’ already showed that you can make a great film that takes place for the full playing time in a small space. In terms of inventiveness, ‘Oxygène’ goes a bit further than that. Because we keep getting shreds of information, the film remains exciting and puzzling. Just like in ‘127 Hours’ we see atmospheric and nostalgic images from the former life of the main character. And then there are her hallucinations, which are both terrifying and help the story move forward.
Yet it is mainly the plot that makes ‘Oxygène’ so strong. Although occasionally less logical, the story is very cleverly put together. Just like for our young heroine, it is a puzzle for the viewer to find out what is going on and what solutions there are. In addition, the story has the necessary twists and turns, and the makers make good use of bullying delay techniques. And there is always that declining oxygen supply.
It is also all fine in craftsmanship. Mélanie Laurent pretty much holds the attention on her own, the capsule looks nice and sci-fi and there is nothing to complain about the score. For viewers with claustrophobia, ‘Oxygène’ is not really recommended, but fans of smart and suspense thrillers will certainly enjoy this.