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'Oxygen' Review With Casey

With newly released thrillers The Woman in the Window directed by Joe Wright (Darkest Hour, 2017) and Those Who Wish Me Dead directed by Taylor Sheridan (Wind River, 2017), mainstream film looked promising May 14-16. But both these films proved disappointing mainly from trying too hard and using too many cliches. So I was pleasantly surprised to see another new film released May 12 on Netflix called Oxygen that elevated my weekend viewing from a dish at Sizzler to least a dish at The Cheesecake Factory. Oxygen is a tense cerebral mystery about a young woman who wakes up alone in a cryogenic sleeping pod and has to figure out how to survive before her oxygen is depleted but with no memory of how she got there or who she is. Through patchy phone calls, internet searches, and answers from the ghostly voice of a computer interface system, our panicked woman gradually assembles pieces of her life. 

Oxygen felt like a combination of the 2010 drama Buried and the technological masterpiece Gravity from 2013. Filmed almost entirely inside a tiny sleeping pod, and featuring only one character on screen, Oxygen could easily be monotonous, predictable, and boring. But it's really not! French actress Melanie Laurent (Operation Finale, 2018) remains captivating, shifting from confusion to fear to hope all while under many disorienting closeups. The pacing of the story is done so carefully, I almost didn't know I was being swept away for the film's entire 1-hour and 40-minute run time. 

Oxygen opens with a shot of a solitary white rat crawling through an even whiter maze trying to find its escape. Viewers will start feeling trapped in a maze themselves as the film takes unexpected turns and uncovers strange surprises. It may not be as flashy or as complex as other newly released thrillers, but Oxygen is tightly constructed into a fun and snaky adventure. Oxygen also offers great topical interest being released during the COVID-19 pandemic, because it swiftly touches on ideas of global illness and patiently explores the risks of perpetual isolation.

Casey T. Allen is a native of Utah who graduated from Utah State University with a Bachelor's degree in English in 2007. He has worked in many capacities throughout USU campus and enjoys his time at UPR to continually exercise his writing.