Director Alexandra Aja has made a career out of horror. Films like "Crawl," "The Hills Have Eyes" and "Piranha 3D" clearly show his skill as a growing master of the genre. With his latest film, "Oxygen" ("Oxygéne" as it's known by it's original French title), he leans more heavily into science-fiction while still flexing his usual muscles.
The result is the most effective movie to date that deals with the isolation, desperation and claustrophobia associated with the recent pandemic, even though "Oxygen" has nothing to do directly with it.
Mélanie Laurent is stunning in her role as Liz, a woman who wakes up trapped in a cryogenically-frozen pod and has no recollection as to how she got there, what's going on, or even who she is. In fact, Laurent is nearly the only actor on-screen, other than a few other supporting characters shown in flashbacks as she begins to piece together her past life. The movie's other star is the voice of the pod's Artificial-Intelligence, known as MILO (voiced by Mathieu Amalric in the French version of the film). Liz's interaction with the all-knowing master of her vessel feels very "2001: A Space Odyssey," and it's lack of emotion or empathy for Liz's situation acts as a compelling contrast to its human prisoner.
The other star of the film is the director himself, Alexandra Aja, as well as the cinematography of Maxime Alexandre and composer Robin Coudert, all of whom work in sync to create an effective mood and look. It's not easy to make a movie that is 100 minutes long almost entirely in an enclosed space with just one actor...but there is never a dull moment for Liz or the audience.
As more and more is revealed, the film releases a bit of its magic out into the ether. "Oxygen" is at its best as it works through its mysteries, and there are some truly horrific sequences that will raise your blood pressure and take your breath away (pun intended). Like a pressure cooker on a slow and steady release, Aja knows what he's serving up, and what he renders is mostly delicious, especially for fans of the horror and/or sci-fi genres.
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi.
Run Time: 1 hour 40 minutes.
Starring: Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi
Directed by Alexandra Aja ("Crawl," "Horns," "Piranha 3D," "Mirrors," "The Hills Have Eyes").
"Oxygen" is on Netflix on Friday, May 14th, 2021.
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