‘Oxygen’ movie review: A claustrophobic film experience that breathes due to Melanie Laurent’s grit

By | June 2, 2021

Director Alexandre Aja, with the ample help of his lead actor, weaves together a tale that keeps you interested mostly, save for the underwhelming last few minutes

It’s almost as if French filmmaker Alexandre Aja knew what the situation in India would be like during the second wave of COVID-19. His latest film revolves around a protagonist who wakes up in a medical cryo unit and must race against time to rebuild her memory before she runs out of oxygen.

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The protagonist, played by an emotive Melanie Laurent, does not even know her name for most of the film. She’s just referred to as unit number 0267; she might have been someone popular in real life, but out there, she is just a number.

But then, who exactly is she? More importantly, where is she?

The film kickstarts with her finding out that she has only one friend — the AI console named MILO — and that she is running out of oxygen. She tries contacting the police, but that doesn’t help her. In between the many shrieks and huffing and puffing, 0267 has to find out about her past and the clues hidden in it to get out of the ordeal.

Oxygen

  • Director: Alexandre Aja
  • Cast: Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi
  • Duration:101 minutes
  • Storyline: After waking up in a cryogenic unit, a woman fights to survive and remember who she is before her oxygen runs out

Oxygen uses all the familiar tropes of films based in the survival drama genre; we have seen similar attempts in Danny Boyle’s 2010 flick 127 Hours, Malayalam film Helen, and its Tamil remake Anbirkiniyal in recent times. But what makes Oxygen stand out is that it uses futuristic and sci-fi elements to add intrigue to the travails of the protagonist.

This film is indeed a tough watch, especially so in today’s times when we keep reading about the need for oxygen in many places in India. That it has a solitary location of a cryo unit (which basically looks like a coffin with many computerised controls attached to it) makes things tougher for the viewer. But, Alexandre, with the ample help of his lead actor, weaves together a tale that keeps you interested most of the time, save for the underwhelming last few minutes.

Watch out for some of the thrilling moments. Like when the protagonist has to hurt herself in order to find out something crucial. Or much later, when she makes a startling discovery that will help her make some headway. Melanie Laurent gives her all in these scenes, and while all this keeps you interested, the lack of fleshing of the other characters in the film is a tad disappointing.

The ethereal music also adds to the drama in Oxygen. In an early scene, the protagonist is lit with hues of red and black, constantly flickering in and out. She suddenly wakes up, and looks around with beleaguered uncertainty. It’s the same kind of uncertainty with which life, and probably oxygen in India, is at the moment.

Oxygen is currently streaming on Netflix

 

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