Alexandre Aja's track record is interesting. From the grisly remake of The Hills Have Eyes to the super intense and suspenseful Crawl, Aja has proven a wide range of thrills. He proves it yet again with Oxygen, a tense thriller filmed during the pandemic with just Mélanie Laurent in a little box. Despite obvious limitations, the film works thanks to Laurent's committed performance, Aja's skillful direction, and LeBlanc's impressive script that avoids sci-fi drama clichés and actually gives us something original.
Laurent plays Liz, a woman who wakes up trapped in a cryogenic tube hooked up to medical equipment. An A.I. named MILO (Amalric) gives her the bare minimum that she needs to know. However, she doesn't remember her name, or how she ended up here. She tries to call the police through MILO, but gets the run-around. The build-up to the reveal of who she is, where she is, and why this happening is done amazingly well. The reveal itself is fantastic, and changes the perspective of the entire film.
Laurent is what makes this film so engaging. She does a commanding job of playing scared, angry, confused, broken, lonely, and hopeful all by herself, with no one to bounce off of. Films that feature only one principal character throughout are tricky, because most films develop through camaraderie. Oxygen succeeds not just in that, but also in avoiding tropes and subverting expectations the wrong way.