Pending the arrival of Zack Snyder’s Army of the Dead, Netflix offers subscribers in May a second original film proposal with Oxygene, thriller diretto da Alexander Aja (Horns, Crawl) which sees the always credible as the absolute protagonist Melanie Laurent. We are in an unspecified future and suddenly a woman, Elizabeth Hansen, wakes up in a cryogenic capsule. She is wrapped in a cocoon of polymers and connected to medical machinery, but when she comes back from induced sleep she remembers nothing of her past, in the throes of severe amnesia. She doesn’t know where she is and why she ended up in a cryogenic capsule, but most of all she doesn’t know who she is.
To his aid alone the capsule interface, MILO (Mathieu Amalric), who, following Elizabeth’s instructions and requests, tries to reconstruct with her the past and everything that led her to that situation. The most serious problem, however, is another: oxygen is continuously decreasing and ready to run out in a few hours, the woman must therefore find a way to escape before it is too late.
All the clichés of the genre
Alexander Aja is not new to these tense and anxious film projects, indeed, we could even say that he has built his own career around them. Let’s think about The hills have eyes but especially a Crawl – Intrappolati e a The 9th Life of Lewis Drax. He has always loved a miscellany of genres aiming at horror, survival and science fiction, and ultimately this Oxygene is a bit like the sum of his inspirations and his film interests, given that in a feature film of one hour and fifty minutes he managed to combine all the aforementioned genres in a single “package”.
Looking at titles like Buried – Buried, Aja chooses never to leave Elizabeth’s cryogenic capsule to create a deep sense of anguish, loneliness and claustrophobia, moving only and exclusively within it and minimizing the dynamism of the shots to functionally focus on close-ups and stylistic ideas suitable for the situation.
In such a context, the director knows how to pigeonhole virtuosity one after the other that give a formal and cinematographic sense to the film, which nevertheless never seems to explode to its maximum potential. It follows above all the almost river screenplay by Christie LeBlanc, strong of a progressive sense and growth of the story that makes its many clichés of the genre in terms of full content.
It marginally deals with various topical issues and does so by referring to the needs related to the story that has been chosen to tell, which is problematic in the rhythm and in the repetition of situations, inevitably reduced. Flashbacks don’t help either, because for the most part referred to the artificial intelligence video of the capsule, MILO, the classic sci-fi helper programmed to interact and support the host of the machine.
Despite being rich in plot twists, in a succession of almost invasive discoveries, Oxygene it is a title that fails to fully fascinate and that does not give real surprises, except Laurent’s interpretation, who, carrying on his shoulders the entire duration of the film, tries to “move” to the best of his acting possibilities in a situation in which the actions are reduced to the bone and it is above all the word, emotion and expression that predominate on the rest.
The conclusive crescendo impetus, however, lifts the somewhat dull fortunes of the project, which in any case remains oppressive and registically reasoned to the millimeter on the calculated and somewhat predictable evolution of history. Not the best Aja movie, preferable outdoors, able to swing with more fun in its style.