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Movie Reviews

Oxygen ★★★



Director:  Alexandre Aja

Starring: Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi and Marc Saez

Released: May 12th 2021 (Netflix)

Alexandre Aja has been dwelling within genre cinema for well over fifteen years now. From his re-boot of the gruesome, The Hills Have Eyes to his most recent Crawl in 2019. The French filmmaker has made a name for himself utilising limited budgets and creating unhinged tales that are mostly entertaining.

His latest film, Oxygen, is his first French-language film since 2003’s Haute tension and stars the one and only Mélanie Laurent. The film has been in pre-production limbo for some time with Anne Hathaway and Noomi Rapace slated to star, but here we are and ready to go. The film follows Elisabeth Hansen (Laurent) wakes up in a cryogenic chamber with no recollection of how she got there, and she must find a way out before running out of air.

Single location dramas can go either way, but Oxygen maintains a high-octane and suspenseful narrative that is very gripping. Aja’s experienced hand is showcased with great composure and ease. In recent years films like Buried and Locke have worked to some degree, but the novelty fades quickly. During this runtime, Aja grabs you and never lets you go. The sheer uncertainty of the situation is what grips you, along with its claustrophobic nature. As the plot unfurls itself, you are still uncertain how it may all end.

As the narrative teases and prods the audience, Aja’s clever visuals fill the screen with intensity, sharp editing and intricate camera movements. There is a sense of repetitiveness at times with the cinematography, along with some cliché thrills. Many filmmakers find it difficult to keep a fast momentum in these moments, and Aja failed with this in his last film, Crawl. Within this film, there is a bit more composure in his attempt to keep the audience fully engaged.

Oxygen is very lucky to have someone like Mélanie Laurent at the helm. Her commitment to the role energises Aja’s visuals and gives the film much-needed depth. Laurent’s eyes say a lot about her emotions in all of her roles, and within Oxygen, this is also the case. This film works on so many levels because of Laurent and Aja relies heavily on this for it to be fully effective. While the film doesn’t have anything new to add to the genre, it is a riveting experience that many audiences will admire. Within the claustrophobic nature of this film is the key to its entertainment.

Lover of all things indie and foreign language. Can be found rambling on YouTube at times!

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