A woman who wakes in a cryogenic chamber with no recollection of how she got there, must find a way out before running out of air.

A woman wakes up a cryogenic pod with no memory of how she got there in . Elizabeth Hansen () wakes up in a panic tied to a bed in a strange chamber of sorts. She is greeted by the Medical Interface Liason Operator or M.I.L.O. (), who informs her that she is in a cryogenic pod and that there is only 35% oxygen remaining. With less than an hour's air supply remaining, Liz tries to find out how she got into the pod and more importantly how she can get out.

Oxygen is a film that is not only the science fiction debut for filmmaker Alexandre Aja, but it is also his first feature produced in his native France since Aja's 2003 breakthrough Haute Tension. Featuring a plot quite reminiscent of 2010's Buried, the action of Oxygen takes place entirely within the cryogenic pod occupied by Mélanie Laurent's character of Elizabeth Hansen. Liz is accompanied only by the A.I. medical program M.I.L.O., voiced by Mathieu Amalric, who is of little help other than repeatedly asking Liz if she would like a sedative.

Oxygen is the type of film that is best seen knowing as little as possible about the plot beforehand. Over the course of the film, we slowly begin to learn more about Liz's backstory through vague flashbacks and phone calls she is able to make through M.I.L.O.'s interface. It is difficult to talk in more detail about the film without revealing too much, but Oxygen does make some surprising twists and turns over the course of its 100-minute running time.

Having spent the majority of his career within the horror genre, it is actually a refreshing change of pace for Alexandre Aja to move into the realm of science fiction, especially after the slight disappointment of his previous film Crawl. However, Aja doesn't abandon horror completely in the film, as Liz suffers from isolation-induced hallucinations and there's one very good jump scare. In addition, like many memorable science fiction films, Oxygen features a memorable score by Robin Coudert, particularly as it intensifies in the film's third act.

The real champion of Oxygen of course is Mélanie Laurent (Inglourious Basterds), who has the challenging role of having to act on her own within an enclosed space. While the film does have other credited actors, such as Mathieu Amalric (Quantum of Solace) as M.I.L.O., they are all voice-over roles and I do not know if Mélanie Laurent had anybody to work off of onset.

Altogether, Oxygen is a very solid and claustrophobic science fiction thriller.

Oxygen premieres globally on Netflix on Wednesday, March 12, 2021

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Trailer for Oxygen

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Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly
Sean Patrick Kelly is a freelance film critic and blogger based in Toronto, Ontario, Canada.