You’d think we’d explored all the possibilities of being trapped in a small space with time running out in “Buried,” and all the emotions of a life circumscribed by such limitations in “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.”
Ah, but have we been served those dishes in a sci-fi setting?
Thus, “Oxyegen (Oxygene),” a French thriller of limited setting and limited interest, a pretty good film that exhausts its chances to generate interest entirely too quickly for my taste.
This Around the World with Netflix outing is 100 minutes long, and I figure it hits the wall at 60 minutes and never punches its way through it.
Melanie Laurent (“Beginners,” “Now You See Me”) plays a woman who wakes up in a chrysalis, gasping for breath until the thin web of whatever tears and she can gulp down air.
She is confined, wrapped in that sheathing, restrained and with tubes and monitoring patches all over her. Her confinement is in a hi-tech white bubble with smooth, curved lines, like a coffin designed by Steve Jobs. And it talks to her with a disembodied voice (Mathieu Amalric, of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly,” in the French-language version).
She can speak, but she has no memory of how she got here, and not even her name. She fees just enough of herself to start arguing with the soothing computer voice that calls itself MILO.
“Would you like a sedative?”
“Let me out, let ME OUT!”
She quickly ascertains she’s in some sort of life support cryogenic pod, that it has failed and her oxygen is running out. MILO is a machine, so he can’t tell her who she is, just her pod-“biological unit” number. But little flashes of memory start to piece that together.
And if she asks the right commands, she can start to reason her way out of this, because she’s no dummy. She asks for and gets through to the police. Except she has no idea who she is or where she’s being kept.
There are gadgets within the pod designed for her “care,” but that could hurt her. As she starts to unplug this and break that, she gets a stern warning from MILO.
“Damaging a cryosalide unit is a European Federal offense, punishable…”
Never mind. She’s got to get the cops to come get her, got to help them find her, got to remember things like the “husband” (Malik Zidi) she sees in her mind.
And she’s got to outsmart that digital bastard MILO, who can’t be reasoned with but who might be circumvented if she asks the right questions and figures out the right commands.
Director Alexandre Aja made his name in horror films such as the classic “High Tension” and the recent gators-in-the-hurricane-flooded house thriller “Crawl.” He’s used to creating suspense and telling stories with the walls closing in around his heroine.
Which is what he manages here…for about an hour.
As the film starts to explain itself and leaps of logic have to clear canyons, I found myself wondering about dinner, what the French version of “The Simpsons” (Melanie Laurent’s dad voices Ned Flanders and Mr. Smithers, in French) and which of this picture’s third act climaxes will be the real one?
MPA Rating: TV-14, profanity
Cast: Mélanie Laurent, Malik Zidi with the voice of Mathieu Amalric
Credits: Directed by Alexandre Aja, script by Christie LeBlanc. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:41