Running time:100 minutes
Director:Alexandre Aja
Release date:12 may 2021

Mulder's Review

"Science fiction is a beautiful opportunity to tell fables of today. " - Alexandre Aja

In the current context of a pandemic period related to covid 19, Alexandra Aja's new film stands out as the most disturbing and psychologically disturbing film of her filmography. This film also marks her return to France after having directed some outstanding films in recent years in the United States that it is The Hills Have Eyes (2006), Mirrors (2008), Piranha 3D (2009), Horns (2014), The 9th Life of Louis Drax (2016) and more recently Crawl (2019). It is all the more interesting to see that Christie LeBlanc's script also manages to simply reinvent the closed-door thriller to take the story in another direction that we won't say anything about to leave the audience to discover. Oxygen is above all a real-time puzzle that questions our humanity, our inexorable destiny and the place of technology and Artificial Intelligence in our lives.

Our current society, as this film very well implies, is in the infancy of technology and must not only constantly adapt but also reinvent itself. Our current pandemic has only made us realize that not everything we take for granted is. The seemingly simplistic plot is not, as the rather clever script cleverly plays with the pre-set rules and Oxygene easily goes beyond the simple fact of a young woman waking up in a cryogenic capsule. This young woman doesn't seem to know what happened the last few days and how she got to this place and especially where she is. When the oxygen really starts to run out she has to rely on her instinct, on an artificial intelligence Milo (voice of Mathieu Amalric) and above all find a way to survive at all costs.

Even if Rodrigo Cortés' Enterrado (Buried) (2010) seems to have an important part in Alexandre Aja's inspiration, Oxygen skillfully blurs the lines and plunges the spectators into an original and captivating universe without any false note and shows once again that this brilliant director never looks for the easy way out and conceives each of his films as a new challenge. By moving away from violent and horrific thrillers like the outstanding High Tension (2003), Alexandre Aja signs here simply his best film, a film that he was able to make by being freed from some constraints of the big Hollywood studios. He loses nothing here of his undeniable storytelling skills and constantly plays with the audience's nerves.

Claustrophobia is at the center of the story and sends us back to his long months during which we had to adapt to a new way of life in which public places (cinema, theaters, concerts but also restaurants were closed). In this respect, Oxygen is an intense and unforgettable cinematographic experience, as it reminds us of our own demons, whether it is our own mortality, the fear of losing our loved ones or the life in which we have woven our own cocoon. In Oxygen, Alexandre Aja's dynamically directed script returns to the perfect tempo of a brilliant and frighteningly effective thriller.

The greatest difficulty of a film taking place in a confined place is to find the right approach and enough material to make us forget this unit of place and to immerse us in a film and hold our full attention. In such a context it was necessary to have an actress totally invested capable of holding all our attention, to move us, to make us laugh and once again Mélanie Laurent shows that she is an excellent actress provided she is directed by directors totally invested in their work and knowing how to make her leave her comfort zone to reveal all her qualities as an actress. The association between Alexandre Aja and Mélanie Laurent simply works miracles here and imposes Oxygen as one of the best films mixing thriller and science fiction of this year.

Directed by Alexandre Aja
Produced by Alexandre Aja, Grégory Levasseur, Vincent Maraval, Brahim Chioua, Noëmie Devide
Written by Christie LeBlanc
Starring Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi
Music : Robin Coudert
Cinematography : Maxime Alexandre
Edited by Hervé Schneid
Production companies : Gateway Films, Wild Bunch, Echo Lake Entertainment
Distributed by Netflix
Release date : may 12 2021
Running time : 101 minutes

Seen on May 10, 2021 (Netflix Press Access)

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