A Breathless Thriller
Oxygen is a clever little film, one that keeps you guessing right up to the very end. Propped up by a stunning performance from Mélanie Laurent, Netflix’s latest cerebral thriller takes inspiration from 127 Hours, Saw and Buried, blending them up together, to deliver an enthralling French picture.
Oxygen wastes absolutely no time getting right to the heart of the drama. The movie opens with a solid hook, which grips you hard and never looks like letting go.
Gasping for air, a woman wrapped in a strange organic cocoon awakens. She’s inside a cramped cryogenic chamber with no recollection of how she got there. With oxygen levels slowly decreasing and only computer AI MILO for company, Liz scrambles to work out who she is and – more importantly – how to escape.
The first 45 minutes or so slowly drip-feed information through cleverly sprinkled flashbacks. These seem like cliched and pedestrian sequences but actually hold a lot of foreshadowed clues over what’s going on.
Along the way Liz starts to doubt her true intentions and the memories she holds/ This is only made worse by experiencing hallucinations along the way. It’s all very psychologically thrilling and the movie absolutely plays on that every chance it gets.
The real star here though is Mélanie Laurent who delivers a stunning performance as our oxygen-starved protagonist. From start to finish she nails her role. You really get a feel for the desperation she exhibits and every part of the situation she finds herself in is so raw and authentic that you’ll be compelled to keep watching.
That’s just as well because Oxygen has some really well-timed and shocking twists. I won’t spoil them here of course but suffice to say this French thriller does a wonderful job holding back on these until the opportune moment. And boy does the truth hit home like a ton of bricks.
Armed with a minimalist score, Oxygen instead relies on its camera work to prop up the artistic side of things. There are some wonderful shots here too, including one gorgeous rotation sequence during the film’s tense third act climax.
To heighten things further, the film includes a plethora of extreme close-up shots, which work really well to build into that claustrophobic feel that the movie thrives on.
Netflix’s Oxygen delivers an impressive entry to the survival genre. The whole escape room scenario has been done numerous times over the years but Oxygen takes the best elements of what’s come before to produce a uniquely gripping, cerebrally charged thriller. This one’s a must-watch!