“Would you like a sedative?”
Oxygen opens with a palpable sense of claustrophobia and never lets up. I am clautrophobic and this movie had me anxious from start to finish. We follow a woman known only by her designation Omicron 267 (Mélanie Laurent). She wakes to find herself trapped in what looks like a medical pod and her only interface with the outside world is through a medical A.I. named M.I.L.O. (Mathieu Amalric). Omicron 267 has amnesia and cannot remember anything from before waking up. Her immediate problem is that her pod has less than 50% oxygen left and she needs to find a way to stay alive. As the movie moves along its short runtime, we get flashbacks of memories coming back to Omicron 267. It is through these flashbacks and some conversations she has that we get a sense of what is happening.
Oxygen is a good amalgamation of other sci-fi films – which I won’t mention here as it would spoil the film. It takes these ideas and condenses them into a tight space and focuses it on a singular character. The film works well because of Mélanie Laurent’s performance as a woman struggling to survive without any knowledge of how she got into her current situation and with numerous roadblocks in her way. Mathieu Amalric is also fantastic as the disembodied voice of M.I.L.O. who is always around and is always trustworthy.
With A.I. in movies, I am always curious about how the A.I. will be. Will it be cryptic and crazy like HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey? Or will it be outright murderous like Skynet from Terminator? Or will it be straight-forward and cuddly cute like Wall-E? M.I.L.O. never has a chance to truly blossom as an A.I. in Oxygen and is straight-forward and all about duty. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if M.I.L.O. took a turn for the evil because of what happens in Oxygen.
Director Alexandre Aja does a wonderful job of keeping the movie focused, tightly wound and claustrophobic. He works in the flashbacks in a way that it gives a slight sense of relief before dropping us back into the horror of being trapped in a coffin-sized box that is running out of air. The script by Christie LeBlanc keeps the audience guessing as to what is happening, though some of the twists are predictable from the moment we hear that the woman has a designation instead of a proper name. The only thing I have an issue with are the closing frames of the film, which I will write more about in the spoilers section.
I enjoyed (though under great anxiety) watching Oxygen and I recommend this film.
Watched at home, streamed on Netflix.
Oxygen has overtones from two of my favorite Duncan Jones films: Moon and Source Code. It mirrors Moon with the theme of loneliness, identity and eventually what it means to be a clone. It is like Source Code in that it is a singular person stuck in a pod trying to figure out what is going on and who can only interact with the outside world through electronic communication. And while it has pieces from these two films, I am glad that Oxygen stands alone and is unique in its own ways.
It is cool that Wolf 1061C is an actual exoplanet that is within the habitable zone of a star 13.8 light years away from Earth.
I loved the design of the lander pods.
The one thing I would have changed with the movie is to eliminate the end scene that shows Liz and Leo on Wolf 1061C. Some times it is better to leave things to the audience’s imagination than to show it outright. This allows audiences to talk about the film and think about what may or may not have happened. The ending to Oxygen is one of those times. Before this unnecessary scene, the film left the audience in a state of wondering if Liz survived or not – and if she did, did she end up living happily ever after with Leo on Wolf 1061C, or even if they made it to Wolf 1061C intact.