Director: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi
Run Time: 101 mins
Oxygen is a survival horror film where a woman wakes up in a cryogenic chamber with no recollection of how she got there, who she is and she cannot escape whilst she is running out of air. This is a strong concept that has been done before to near-perfection with Ryan Reynolds’ Buried. Buried was excellent in how it developed Reynolds’ character, the ordeal he had to go through and it didn’t outstay its welcome. The ever-versatile Mélanie Laurent is in the lead role here, most famous for her role in Inglourious Basterds. The film is directed by Alexandre Aja, who is a seasoned hand with horror, with works such as The Hills Have Eyes, the underrated Horns and the alligator invasion disaster film Crawl.
Oxygen makes the most out of its single location and there is a committed performance from Mélanie Laurent. It is handsomely shot by Maxime Alexandre, who conveys the panic-inducing claustrophobia of the suffocating space and the film is well-directed with Aja making the most of the film’s budget. Some of the film’s technical, more showy moments are impressive for a film of this stature.
Unfortunately, Oxygen runs into trouble in the second half. It is a good 20-30 mins overlong for its story and the antics Laurent has to go through begin to wear thin and are repetitive. Its final act is also very disappointing and the narrative choices felt like a cop-out. Buried wildly succeeded in its simplicity but Aja overcomplicates matters here and delves down a rabbit hole. It is understandable that Aja wanted to lean more heavily into sci-fi but it costs the film its promising build up.
Oxygen is ultimately one of the better efforts of a survival horror in one location but the good work of its first act fails to pay off with its poor narrative choices later in the film and it outstays its welcome. It’s a valiant effort and a back-to-basics approach for Aja but the second half disappoints in its failure to pay off the promising first half.