Netflix's 'Oxygen' Is a Defective Cryochamber Full of Fun
In the sci-fi thriller, Mélanie Laurent is trapped in a box with only an idiot A.I. to save her.
There's a certain artistry to movies that revolve around only a single set: movies like Rear Window, Locke, or Devil, where the script and the characters are forced to make the most of a small space. In Oxygen, Netflix's new twisty sci-fi thriller, the set is barely a set at all—it's a locked medical chamber with a woman trapped inside, desperate to escape before her supply of breathable air runs out. All she has to help her are her spotty memories, a few phone calls, and a not-so-trusty A.I. system that, for reasons revealed later on, can barely do anything actually helpful.
At the very start of Oxygen, which is directed by Piranha 3D and Crawl's Alexandre Aja, a woman (Mélanie Laurent) wakes up inside a malfunctioning medical pod (yes, this movie takes place in the future, but it's not specified how far in until you get to the four or five twists that make up the film's back half) with no memory of who she is or how she got there, aside from weird flashes of being in a hospital and of rats running around in mazes. The pod's artificial intelligence system MILO (voiced by Mathieu Amalric) informs her that she has less than half of her oxygen left due to an unspecified mechanical failure, and she only has about an hour and change of breathable air left before she suffocates.
The movie is claustrophobic enough without that ticking clock, with the main (and basically only) character strapped into a glorified coffin, hooked up to a bunch of tubes, and forced to argue in circles with an A.I. system that's viscerally reminiscent of robot customer service. The plot gets a little silly when the twisty reveals start coming in waves, but not necessarily in a bad way. In its best moments, Oxygen is a lean thriller that will hold your attention through all of its big reveals, using everything at its disposal to craft a story that's fun, tense, and never boring. And when it's over, you'll want to pop outside for a big breath of fresh air.