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Alexandre Aja makes a very different kind of confined spaces thriller to follow up his great “ Crawl ” in this week’s also-great “Oxygen,” premiering today on Netflix. It may have been in development before the world knew anything about COVID-19 (and once had Anne Hathaway attached), but this truly feels like the most 'pandemic thriller' yet in its own unpredictable way. It’s a film about isolation, loss, and an uncertain future. Shot in July 2020, it clearly reflects all of the international concerns about diminishing oxygen intakes even as it unfolds in a manner that seems unimaginable. Most of all, it features a stunning performance from the great Mélanie Laurent (“ Inglourious Basterds ”), who owns the screen as the film’s only real character. With robust direction in an incredibly confined space and Laurent’s phenomenal work, “Oxygen” should feel like a breath of fresh air for people looking for something to watch on Netflix. (Sorry.)

Laurent plays Liz Hansen, a doctor who wakes up in a cryogenic chamber with no memory of how she got there. In fact, her memories seem jumbled and inconsistent altogether, adding to her confusion. At first, she’s not even sure of her own name, or her professional or personal background. As these memories start to filter in, she communicates with an on-board computer named MILO (voiced by Mathieu Amalric ), who sometimes sounds only slightly less nefarious than HAL when it comes to projections regarding Hansen’s odds of survival. You see, the chamber is losing oxygen fast. Liz has to figure out who she is, why she’s there, and how to fix her nightmare situation. It’s not unlike “ Buried ” meets “2001: Space Odyssey,” which is a hell of an elevator pitch.

The first half-hour of “Oxygen” is its most effective as the film unfolds like a mystery wherein a victim has to ask the right questions to figure out how to save her life. She has a supercomputer at her disposal in MILO but it’s a system that only responds—it doesn’t think for itself. She can’t just tell MILO to figure shit out. She has to ask the right questions to get the truth of why she’s there and how she can escape. Why has no one responded to MILO’s distress signal? Why do calls to home and authorities seem to be getting her nowhere? Why can’t she even remember her own past other than in fleeting images? One of the fun things about “Oxygen” is that there are concrete answers to all of these questions by the time the movie is over. Unlike some recent high-concept sci-fi, the pieces fit in “Oxygen.” It might be neat to rewatch the film after all of its secrets have been revealed, but it’s that first view wherein we know only as much as Liz knows that’s so riveting.

Naturally, given the entire film (other than glimpses of flashbacks or memories) takes place in the chamber, Aja asks a lot of Laurent. She delivers and then some. Running an entire gamut of emotions from fear to anger to grief, Laurent gives what will easily be one of the best performances of 2021. She’s perfect for this part, reminding viewers of her incredible range while locked into a performance in which she basically only uses her face and voice.

Some people won’t be completely satisfied by the final act of “Oxygen,” but I think it holds together, and it’s undeniably remarkable even if judged purely as an acting exercise. Thanks largely to Aja’s momentum and Laurent’s performance, I also found it surprisingly moving for this kind of high-concept thriller. Liz wakes up to a situation she never imagined and has to figure out how to save herself before her oxygen runs out. Flashbacks to hospitals with masked patients and doctors place the tension even more firmly in the COVID era while never explicitly drawing that parallel in a way that heightens the tension. Without spoiling anything, it becomes a film that intertwines both grief and optimism, which kind of defines where so much of the world is at in 2021, assessing what we’ve lost while hoping for the future.

(Note: Netflix often defaults to dubbed versions. Watch this in French. Mine started dubbed and you'd lose so much of Laurent's performance if you let someone else speak for her.)

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Managing Editor of, and also covers television, film, Blu-ray, and video games. He is also a writer for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Times, and GQ, and the President of the Chicago Film Critics Association.

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Oxygen movie poster

Oxygen (2021)

100 minutes

Mélanie Laurent as Elizabeth Hansen

Mathieu Amalric as M.I.L.O

Malik Zidi as Léo Ferguson

Marc Saez as Ortiz

  • Alexandre Aja
  • Christie LeBlanc


  • Maxime Alexandre
  • Stéphane Roche
  • Robin Coudert

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‘Oxygen’ Review: The Thrill of Claustrophobia

Trapped in a cryogenic chamber with oxygen levels dwindling, a woman must learn how to team up with the machine in order to escape.

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By Lena Wilson

Since shocking his way into popular culture with the 2003 lesbian exploitation slasher “High Tension,” the horror director Alexandre Aja has led grand, English-language productions: remakes of “The Hills Have Eyes” and “Maniac,” as well as the bombastic horror-comedy “Piranha 3D.”

“Oxygen,” filmed during summer 2020 at the height of the coronavirus pandemic and now streaming on Netflix, is Aja’s return to French-language cinema. It also shows how much better the director can do with a sparse script (written by Christie LeBlanc).

The film takes place almost entirely within a cryogenic chamber slightly larger than a coffin. The film follows a woman (Mélanie Laurent) after a malfunction jolts her out of hypersleep. Trapped and with oxygen levels dwindling, she must learn how to team up with the machine, controlled by a sinister-yet-pleasant A.I. named Milo (Mathieu Amalric), in order to escape.

The premise is simple, but this twist-filled script by LeBlanc gives Laurent ample opportunity to shine. Because of its limited setting, the film hangs on Laurent’s acting ability, and she gamely vaults between elation, terror and determination. Aja maintains tension throughout, using horror conventions — and a few cheap jump scares — to routinely shock the audience back to attention. Though “Oxygen” is more thriller than horror, these manipulations keep the film taut, even as its script bends credulity.

The film’s opening is immediately gripping, sending viewers into a claustrophobic nightmare. When the protagonist is jarred awake, she must fight her way through a protective sac. Introduced by the sound of a beating heart and images of deformed lab rats, the first shots of Laurent’s face promise something monstrous underneath. Her features are elongated by red lights and her shallow breaths sound more animal than human. When Laurent’s face becomes visible, her fingers break through the cocoon like the chestbursters of “Alien.” The effect is uncanny, disorienting viewers and immediately aligning them with the film’s addled lead.

“Oxygen” is a film defined by its lack of space, and its art and animation departments have expertly constructed a cryochamber that is both visually pleasing and appropriately creepy. The A.I. Milo is rendered as a Siri-like circle of pulsating waves, occasionally offering up other interfaces for Laurent to navigate. As Milo’s voice, Almaric matches the cool, detached energy of his surroundings, while simultaneously winning trust as his captor’s only ally. The two even share a few wry exchanges, lending humor to an otherwise dour narrative.

“Oxygen” is the rare genre film that is tight enough to actually succeed on streaming. It will make you put your phone on the other side of the living room for a little while longer — or at least make you grateful you have a whole room to cross.

Oxygen Not rated. In French, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 40 minutes. Watch on Netflix.

Lena Wilson is a project manager at The New York Times and a freelance writer covering film, TV, technology and lesbian culture. More about Lena Wilson

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Suspenseful sci-fi mystery has peril, language, violence.

Oxygen Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Humans, regardless of gender, have the capacity to

Liz Hansen finds herself in an impossible situatio

The main character fears for her life the entire f

A married couple hugs and kisses in flashbacks. In

"F--king," "s--t," "a--hole," "hell," "damn." The

A woman smokes cigarettes. The pod repeatedly offe

Parents need to know that this French mystery could upset some viewers with sustained peril, graphic images, and its treatment of death and illness. Oxygen ( Oxygène ) also touches on broader concepts concerning the future of humankind and the ethics of scientific research and discovery that…

Positive Messages

Humans, regardless of gender, have the capacity to imagine other worlds and develop scientific marvels. Medical and scientific research must be guided by ethical boundaries. Nature can provide inspiration for scientific discovery. Profound love can exist between two people and help them transcend life's challenges.

Positive Role Models

Liz Hansen finds herself in an impossible situation and struggles to maintain a cool intellect to reach back to her own medical and scientific knowledge in order to help herself. She demonstrates cleverness and courage in facing the unknown. Some of what she discovers about herself surprises her.

Violence & Scariness

The main character fears for her life the entire film. She cries, screams, imagines herself suffocating, calls her loved ones to say good bye, says she doesn't want to die, and hallucinates rats all over her body. She is physically constrained inside the pod, which has the power to inject her with sedatives or lethal combinations and can give her electric shocks. She's told she’ll suffer extreme pain if she leaves the pod. She pulls bloodied tubes and long needles out of her body and inserts them back in. She flashes back to a loved one suffering lesions and coughing up blood due to an unnamed virus. She sees dead human bodies with holes blown through them. Laboratory rats are experimented on, tortured, and killed. Characters make dire prognoses on the future of the human race.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

A married couple hugs and kisses in flashbacks. In one scene, the woman sits on the man's lap. In another, they appear to be naked in bed and caressing each other.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

"F--king," "s--t," "a--hole," "hell," "damn." The film was reviewed in its original French with English subtitles.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

A woman smokes cigarettes. The pod repeatedly offers Liz sedatives.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this French mystery could upset some viewers with sustained peril, graphic images, and its treatment of death and illness. Oxygen ( Oxygène ) also touches on broader concepts concerning the future of humankind and the ethics of scientific research and discovery that some viewers could find disconcerting. The main character, a doctor, demonstrates courage , intellect, and presence of mind in facing down her fears and unraveling the mystery of why she's woken up in a pod, who and where she is, and how she can save her own life before she runs out of oxygen. Her future is uncertain and she imagines herself suffocating. She's nearly stabbed by automated needles carrying sedatives or even lethal injections, receives repeated electric shocks, and pulls bloodied tubes and long needles out of her body and inserts them back in. She sees dead human bodies with holes blown through them. She remembers a loved one dying (including spitting up blood) from an unnamed virus. Laboratory rats are experimented on, tortured, and killed. In flashbacks, she and a man kiss and she smokes cigarettes. Language includes "f--king," "s--t," "a--hole," "hell," "damn." The film was reviewed in its original French with English subtitles. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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What's the Story?

In OXYGEN, a woman (Mélanie Laurent) awakes inside a futuristic cocoon. She quickly learns she's running out of oxygen. Unsure of where the pod is or how she got there, the woman begins asking questions of the pod's artificially intelligent operation system, known as MILO, for Medical Interface Liaison Operator (voiced by Mathieu Almaric). She's able to make some calls to the outside world and use MILO to search the internet and archives to uncover her own identity. She quickly realizes she doesn't know who she can trust or who is giving her helpful information. Meanwhile, her oxygen levels continue dropping.

Is It Any Good?

This French sci-fi film plays on elements of claustrophobia and suspense to deliver a compelling, though limited, tale. Oxygen takes a big risk by reducing its settings, outside of a few flashbacks, to a single, coffin-sized pod. The film banks on the emotion conveyed by star Mélanie Laurent, alone with a camera close on her face and interacting solely with other voices. Laurent does a convincing job transmitting fear, anger, shock, resignation, and more. For fans of the genre, viewers interested in the futuristic concepts here, and/or fans of Laurent, this will all be enough. For others, the film may feel too limited to maintain interest for the full hour and 40 minutes, even despite plot twists and a cleverly-controlled unspooling of the mystery surrounding the who, what, where, when, why, and how of the character and her unusual predicament.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about the premise for Oxygen . What aspects of the story do you feel could be realistic? Which less so?

The film takes several twists and turns as Liz tries to discover who she is and where she is. Did you find the outcome predictable or did the film take you by surprise?

Have you watched any other movies that take place in one small setting like this one? Can you imagine how this movie was filmed? Where could you go for more information?

Movie Details

  • On DVD or streaming : May 12, 2021
  • Cast : Melanie Laurent , Mathieu Amalric , Malik Zidi
  • Director : Alexandre Aja
  • Inclusion Information : Female actors
  • Studio : Netflix
  • Genre : Science Fiction
  • Topics : STEM , Science and Nature
  • Character Strengths : Courage
  • Run time : 101 minutes
  • MPAA rating : NR
  • Last updated : February 17, 2023

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Summary A young woman (Mélanie Laurent) wakes up in a cryogenic pod. She doesn’t remember who she is or how she ended up there. As she’s running out of oxygen, she must rebuild her memory to find a way out of her nightmare.

Directed By : Alexandre Aja

Written By : Christie LeBlanc

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Mélanie Laurent

Elizabeth 'liz' hansen.

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Mathieu Amalric

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Léo Ferguson

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Oxygen Review


12 May 2021

Conceived before the pandemic, Oxygen — or Oxygène in its original French — perfectly taps into the claustrophobic anxieties of the ’rona age. Originally set to star Anne Hathaway (who starred in her own pandemic film, Locked Down ), then Noomi Rapace (who remains as an executive producer here), Alexandre Aja shot the film with a minimal cast ( Inglourious Basterds ’ Mélanie Laurent eventually signed on) and crew in lockdown where the synergy between subject matter and the world around it couldn’t have been more apt. Aja, who has previously mined scares from killer fish ( Piranha 3D ) and killer alligators ( Crawl ), this time applies his prodigious technical prowess to a more complex study of isolation and identity. In outline, it sounds like a high-tech version of Ryan Reynolds’ trapped-in-a-coffin movie Buried ; in reality, helped by an outstanding Laurent, Oxygen is so much more.


The concept is sky-high. A woman who we come to know as Omicron 267 (Laurent) snaps wide awake, wrapped in a cocoon and with restraining straps across her chest. She quickly discerns that she is in a souped-up cryogenic chamber but — upping the stakes on Buried — has no memory of where she is, how she got there and, perhaps worse of all, who she is. Answers start to come from MILO (Medical Interface Liaison Operator, voiced by Quantum Of Solace ’s Mathieu Amalric), an onboard computer system designed to monitor her status.

It sounds like a high-tech version of Ryan Reynolds’ Buried; in reality, helped by an outstanding Laurent, Oxygen is so much more.

Apart from the amnesia, Omicron 267’s biggest problem is that she is running out of oxygen, which is currently at 35 per cent and counting (at three per cent, the CEP, or Charitable Euthanasia Protocol, activates). Here the thrill of Oxygen kicks in as Omicron 267 begins to negotiate furiously with MILO to try and get the answers that will fill in the blanks in her past and get her free (in a mordant comment on modern life, the thing that is stopping her getting out is that she can’t remember the Administrator’s password). There are glimpses of possible memories (the sea, a husband, a hospital gurney), a conversation with the police, who try to track down the pod’s whereabouts, and a run-in with a needle on an arm that offers sedatives or palliative care. Then, in a spark of inspiration, she asks MILO to run a DNA test that proves to be a game changer.

Aja and Christie LeBlanc’s lean script ratchet up the tension and the anxiety in this first stretch, Liz’s guessing games with MILO extremely engaging. As a filmmaker, Aja finds a dizzying array of different angles and lighting cues to stop Liz’s predicament becoming visually tedious. But the real ace in the hole here is Laurent, who is by turns steely and desperate. She makes Liz’s mental gymnastics under pressure believable and, in her responses to MILO, also lends the film a neat and much-needed line in dry humour.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, when Aja has to start revealing his hand, the film’s grip starts to lessen, drifting into exposition and BIG themes that feel at odds with the small-scale set-up. Nonetheless, the result is still Aja’s most engrossing, satisfying film to date. Sometimes there is something to be said for thinking inside the box.

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Oxygen Feels Like Something the Netflix Algorithm Vomited Up

Portrait of Alison Willmore

Slosh around in the runoff of Netflix’s lesser releases and you’ll be reminded that the streaming service is as much a data company as an entertainment behemoth. Netflix runs on a schedule of marquee titles, like the Shondaland shows and David Fincher passion projects that are comparable to the output of other major networks and studios. But it is in the steady flow of smaller titles — some of them indie or international acquisitions, some clearly churned out on the cheap — that you can really feel the algorithm at work. Those lower-tier originals provide a (lightly dystopian) glimpse of what people click on when there’s nothing they might actively choose to watch: the meandering true-crime docuseries, the array of increasingly threadbare reality competition shows, the slapdash teen comedies, the high-concept, tight-focus sci-fi films — and man, are there a lot of the latter.

Some are set after an apocalypse: I Am Mother (in which Rose Byrne voices a sinister maternal robot), or IO (Margaret Qualley raises bees on an abandoned Earth), or How It Ends (Theo James crosses the country as it erupts into chaos). Some of them are set on ships: Orbiter 9 (about a woman who is part of a long-term space-travel experiment), or Stowaway (Anna Kendrick & Co. go to Mars), or The Cloverfield Paradox (a Paramount castoff). Most of these movies have minimal casts, which may or may not include name-brand stars. The George Clooney–directed The Midnight Sky was a higher-end production that nevertheless managed to be about both a guy living alone after an apocalypse and some people on a ship. These movies are all over the place in terms of quality and budget, but there is something to the regularity with which they are offered up, and their recurring elements, that becomes haunting. It’s as though the point isn’t a shared genre but something blunter and more calculated: Whose helmeted face can appear in a thumbnail next?

This week, it is actress and filmmaker Mélanie Laurent, whose face appears, in a minor variation, inside the glassed-in environs of a medical cryo unit instead of a suit. She plays Elizabeth Hansen, the main character in Oxygen and the only one who appears onscreen in anything other than a voice-over, a video clip, or a flashback. This French-language film is set far enough into the future that units like the one Elizabeth wakes up in at the start of the film are standard. What throws her into a panic is not that she has woken up swaddled in gauze within the confines of a high-tech casket but that she doesn’t know how she got there, how to get out, or who she is. That’s a lot of information for one immobilized woman to sort out in 90 minutes, especially with the ticking clock of her air running out because the unit sustained some sort of damage. Fortunately for her, the cryo unit comes equipped with some shaky Wi-Fi equivalent and an AI companion who is able to offer help when she asks but who is also inconveniently inclined to sedate and/or euthanize the “bioform” it has been entrusted with.

There’s a twist, though that is such a part of the formula for this type of offering that it can barely be called that. Then there’s another twist to make up for that fact. While both are pretty silly, the second one carries with it all kinds of philosophical implications a more thoughtful film would attempt to explore in some way. Oxygen is not, however, a very thoughtful film, and what should be enormous revelations are moved past easily, Christie LeBlanc’s script operating with the briskness of a project more focused on being a riff on Buried than giving any peripheral sense of a coherent future world. Oxygen was directed by Alexandre Aja, an alum of the New French Extreme who made a name for himself with the transgressive, nonsensical slasher High Tension and who more recently directed the unconscionably fun alligator-attack movie Crawl . His new film may be neither transgressive nor fun, but it is, at least, well crafted, the camera moving limberly to create a sense of visual momentum, even though its protagonist is trapped in a small space. Aja knows what sort of product he is turning out and does it ably, if without much excitement, as though understanding he is filling a hole in a lineup.

It’s actually Laurent, who is too classy to be here, who doesn’t entirely grasp the assignment. She keeps overreaching, giving her cutout character shows of realistic emotion that the film she is appearing in can’t support. It’s entirely plausible that someone in Elizabeth’s situation would have a burst of hysterics, stuck in a claustrophobic setting with death imminent and no rescue in sight. But in the context of Oxygen ’s wildly contrived premise, every moment the character takes to feel understandably upset is one in which she is not working to save herself. In pitting her all-too-human reactions against the mechanics of the screenplay, the film invites the viewer to be frustrated with its protagonist rather than feel for her. There’s no room in that cryo pod for character development, only for finding answers and a solution before the time runs out. Then it is on to the next streaming sci-fi B-movie, whatever it may be — the lid, or the helmet, or the protective gear popped open and left behind for someone else to put on.

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Oxygen Is a Tense, Engrossing Sci-Fi Thriller

Alexandre Aja's Oxygen is a tense and surprisingly moving film, featuring a gripping performance from Mélanie Laurent.

Alexandre Aja is not a subtle filmmaker. The French director behind horror movies including High Tension , Piranha 3D and Horns doesn’t hold back from bombarding his audience with unsettling images or loudly stating the subtext of his films. Aja’s best movies, including 2019’s entertainingly ridiculous Crawl , take advantage of his in-your-face style, with bold premises and plenty of, well, high tension. That works even in the mostly single-location thriller Oxygen , in which Aja brings as much suspense and danger to a coffin-size enclosure as he did to the flooded, alligator-infested house in Crawl .

Aside from a handful of brief flashbacks, the entirety of Oxygen takes place inside a futuristic cryogenic pod, where Liz (Mélanie Laurent) wakes up prematurely from some sort of suspended animation. At first, she’s so disoriented that she doesn’t know her own name, only that persistent warnings indicate that the oxygen level in the pod is at 35 percent and falling. Thankfully, there’s an available medical AI known as MILO (voiced by Mathieu Amalric), which, in the tradition of many sci-fi AIs, is only superficially helpful, condescendingly responding to many of Liz’s queries with the assertion that it doesn’t know or can’t answer.

RELATED: Netflix's Stowaway Is Nail-Biting, Provocative Sci-Fi

So Liz is stuck figuring out who she is, where she is and why she was placed in the pod, which is typically used for medical purposes. Aja and screenwriter Christie LeBlanc parcel out information in strategic increments over the course of the 100-minute movie, all while the dwindling oxygen provides a constant sense of urgency. Via MILO, Liz is able to make some outside calls, first to the police and then to people she believes are connected to her personal life, although those calls are often dropped or unsuccessful at crucial moments.

She also pulls up photos and videos that help remind her of who she is, as Aja cuts to occasional flashes of Liz’s life with her husband (Malik Zidi). But new developments continue to arise that make Liz question whether her perceived memories are accurate, and the importance of discovering her true identity is nearly as strong as the importance of escaping from the pod before the oxygen runs out.

There are enough sci-fi trappings to lead to some obvious audience speculation about where Liz is and how she got there, but Aja doesn’t expand Oxygen ’s viewpoint until nearly the end (when he’s hampered by some weak special effects). MILO itself is just a projection of squiggly lines that look sort of like a jellyfish, on a screen above Liz’s head. The effectively minimalist production design creates a sense of some kind of future via just a handful of monitors and wires.

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Aja and cinematographer Maxime Alexandre vary the camera angles enough to keep things visually fresh, without resorting to too many distractingly elaborate trick shots. As Oxygen goes on, Aja and LeBlanc reveal more about Liz’s world, filling in the blanks about the circumstances in both her personal life and society at large that led to her being placed in the pod.

Eventually, that leads to a series of twists, which range from predictable to outlandish, and not everything in the plot adds up by the end. But Aja and Laurent make Liz’s predicament so compelling from moment to moment that there’s no time to reflect on narrative inconsistencies, and none of the potential plot holes hinder Oxygen ’s substantial entertainment value. Laurent gives a masterful performance that places the audience right alongside Liz for the entire running time, even when she’s reacting to especially absurd scenarios.

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Amalric brings a deadpan sense of humor to MILO, whether via cheerfully offering a “charitable euthanasia protocol” (that is, a lethal injection) when Liz’s chances of survival get too low, or warning her about possible criminal penalties for tampering with cryogenic pods when she attempts to break open the lid to escape. The other occasional voices on the phone give Laurent enough to react to that she’s not just giving her performance entirely solo, but her emotions and line deliveries are what really hold the viewer’s attention. She runs the gamut from scared to angry to righteous to wistful to hopeless, all while barely moving from the same prone position.

Oxygen owes a lot to various sci-fi disaster movies (the pod has a particularly terrifying needle-tipped arm that is reminiscent of the medical pod in Ridley Scott’s Prometheus ) as well as other single-person, single-location thrillers, including the 2010 Ryan Reynolds movie Buried (at one point, Liz speculates that she might have been buried alive). But Aja and LeBlanc effectively combine familiar elements in fresh ways, taking the time to develop the main character as she starts to remember details about herself. By the end, Oxygen is surprisingly moving, even as it fully embraces several movies’ worth of sci-fi nonsense .

Starring Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric and Malik Zidi, Oxygen premieres Wednesday, May 12 on Netflix .

KEEP READING: The Mitchells vs. The Machines is an Inventive Animated Sci-Fi Action/Comedy

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Oxygen review: Netflix's breathless sci-fi thriller works if you don't think about it too hard

Leah Greenblatt is the critic at large at Entertainment Weekly , covering movies, music, books, and theater. She is a member of the New York Film Critics Circle, and has been writing for EW since 2004.

movie review oxygen

A film literally made from thin air, the French thriller Oxygen (on Netflix starting Friday) is a neat little sci-fi nightmare; a cool-toned exercise in claustrophobia that nearly pulls off the innate improbabilities of its high-concept nonsense. It will also make you almost absurdly grateful for the ordinary limits of your own living space when Mélanie Laurent 's unnamed protagonist awakens, thrashing and terrified, to a cryogenic chamber in which she's been mysteriously, meticulously mummified.

Disorienting flashbacks — a gasping lab rat, a hospital gurney — are the only hints she has of how she got here; the AI voice of the chamber's operating system ( Sound of Metal 's Mathieu Amalric), her lone point of "human" contact. The news, as he delivers it serenely, is not good: Her oxygen supply is damaged and depleting fast; would she care for a sedative? Non, merci . And so begins the race to find out who and where she is. (The why and how will have to wait.)

Director Alexandre Aja ( Crawl , The Hills Have Eyes ) comes from horror, and he brings a clammy urgency that overrides some of the script's sillier turns. (The eventual Inception logic of it all is perhaps better left unscrutinized.) The casting, too, took a scenic route; at different points, both Anne Hathaway and Noomi Rapace were reportedly slated to star.

A more mainstream name or an English-language script no doubt would have granted the movie a wider kind of appeal, subtitles still being the low-bar bugaboo of casual viewers. But Laurent ( Inglourious Basterds , Beginners ), long a César-winning star in her native France, makes the role entirely her own: Furious, determined, and desperately human, she breathes indomitable life into every frame. Grade: B

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Movie Review – Oxygen (2021)

April 30, 2021 by Robert Kojder

Oxygen , 2021.

Directed by Alexandre Aja. Starring Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi, Marc Saez, Vincent Maraval, Brahim Chioua, Noémie Devide, Grégory Levasseur, Lyah Valade, Pascal Germain, Marie Lemiale, Laura Boujenah, Cathy Cerda, and Éric Herson-Macarel.

A woman wakes in a cryogenic chamber with no recollection of how she got there and must find a way out before running out of air.

As soon as the recognizable Netflix logo and associated audio sound bite disappear, the next frame of Oxygen shows a rat roaming around in what is revealed to be a maze as the camera pans back. It’s such a random visual that I assumed it was going to be an additional logo, this one for a company director Alexandre Aja ( Crawl , one of his more recent works that give a good idea of what to expect here, although this is more ambitious) might be associated with and decided to take one last glance at my emails before eliminating all distractions. Within that five-second time span, I came back to see Oxygen plastered over the screen; apparently, the rat maze has something to do with the mystery on hand.

From there, the setting switches to a cryogenic pod where Mélanie Laurent’s Elizabeth Hansen (I’m not even going to bother divulging the smallest of details about the character as the majority of the film’s enjoyment comes from every discovery, no matter how basic or game-changing) awakes. She also happens to be covered from head to toe by an organic cocoon that she eventually tears apart from the inside. Furthermore, she has an IV hooked up to her, a cerebral device monitoring her brain activity, and amnesia. Her only means to get to the bottom of what’s going on is interacting with MILO (voiced by Mathieu Amalric), a sort of medical bay version of Siri that can access all kinds of information so long as it’s not restricted. Also, time is essential considering critical parts of the pod have malfunctioned with oxygen set to run out between 45 and 72 minutes (more or less, in real-time and depending on the rate Elizabeth exhausts herself).

Coming clean, Oxygen is one of the more difficult reviews I’ve ever had to write in my near-decade of experience doing this so far, mostly because of the script from Christie LeBlanc (making her debut feature-length screenwriting effort) lives and dies upon reveals and twists. Fortunately, there are quite a few genuinely surprising revelations here (one of which is accompanied by a sequence of mesmerizing cinematography that beautifully loops right back to an eye of Elizabeth). We also learn things about this depiction of Earth and humanity that are intriguing but never actually explored, as if it only exists to keep the logic of this thriller intact.

Determined to really mess with viewers’ minds, especially Elizabeth, Oxygen brings to the forefront the possibility that some of what is happening could be psychotic hallucinations due to extended isolation. By acknowledging this and then taking a specific route, the mystery aspect becomes more complex even if the story never quite comes together for the desired emotional impact. The situation forces Elizabeth to utilize MILO’s limited functions to gather knowledge about her own identity and confirm and debunking certain things she sees and hears (she can call and connect to a few supporting characters, including a police captain inside the science and forensics department).

Similar experiences have been crafted recently ( Buried with Ryan Reynolds comes to mind as the most direct parallel), so it’s not necessarily a new concept but one seemingly always challenging to pull off successfully. There is admirable ambition with the theme of eternal love (trust me, that’s still intentionally vague as to keep what’s really going a secret) that Alexandre Aja is going for. And although it never fully resonates dramatically, the stressed and terrified claustrophobic performance from Melanie Laurent elevates what is, ultimately, a series of revelations escalating in privacy and scope. That scope might be cast a bit too wide, but Oxygen will still take a good amount of breath away.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★

Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check  here  for new reviews, follow my  Twitter  or  Letterboxd , or email me at [email protected]


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‘Oxygen’ Review: Mélanie Laurent Is Trapped in a Cryogenic Chamber in Silly, Well-Crafted Netflix Thriller

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A taut single-location Netflix thriller about a woman ( Mélanie Laurent ) who wakes up in a futuristic cryogenic chamber with no idea of who she is, why she’s there, or what she can to get out before she runs out of air, Alexandre Aja ’s “Oxygen” would seem to be the perfect COVID-era collaboration between the directors of “High Tension” and “ Breathe .” The rare high-concept movie that grows more compelling as it begins to unveil its mysteries, the film plays out as a frantic game of 200 questions that hinges on Laurent’s character desperately asking the chamber’s ultra-advanced A.I. companion (voiced by Mathieu Amalric ) to sift through social media and make a few last-ditch phone calls. Anything, she hopes, that might restore her memory or make contact with someone who can open the pod bay door before she asphyxiates to death.

But for all of the wild reveals that “Oxygen” has in store, most of which are predictable in broad strokes, there’s one minor little detail that Christie LeBlanc’s script never satisfyingly explains despite the fact that it’s baked into the deepest bedrock of this film: Why in hell would a cryogenic chamber ever come equipped with social media!? Surely the best part of suspended animation is the sweet release from the poison grip of posting. We’re talking about a device that has two modes — “Dead” and “Basically Dead” — and in the bizarre event that anyone ever woke up in one of these things, it’s hard to imagine that Siri would be the key to their salvation.

“Oxygen” is the sort of sly exercise in cinematic anxiety that demands a certain suspension of disbelief, and earns just enough of it to entertain. It’s also fair to say that the high-tech capabilities of the film’s setting are meant to make viewers forward and interrogate Amalric’s Medical Interface Liaison Operator (or MILO) with the same fervor that Omicron-267 does (to call Laurent’s character by the name that MILO gives her). It could even be argued that Omicron-267’s dire predicament is proof enough that cryogenic chambers should come with some kind of emergency system for interfacing with the outside world.

But when it comes to a movie that mistakes its premise for a story — a movie that mines most of its conflict and all of its drama from solving the “whats” and “whys” of its supine heroine’s situation — logistics are really the only thing we have to latch onto. With that kind of leak in the air supply, it’s only a matter of time before the whole enterprise goes braindead.

Fortunately, Aja knows how to fray nerves with the best of them, and “Oxygen” finds a number of clever ways to keep our attention focused on the film’s clear and present dangers. The actors are the most valuable asset in that regard, even if only one of them appears on screen. Laurent — delivering so much of her performance in extreme close-up that each of her nostrils deserves its own residual checks — is excellent as someone who essentially has an hour to figure out who she is if she has any hope for survival.

Amnesiac acting is a unique challenge, but Laurent’s flop-sweat fear is undercut by the intriguing sense that all of the answers Omicron needs are swimming around in her head somewhere, and she just needs to steady herself for long enough to fish them out. MILO is always calm and happy to be of assistance so long as Omicron asks him the right questions (Amalric strikes just the right balance between robot and rescue worker), but it doesn’t help that he’s constantly reminding her that she only has so much oxygen left.

For all of its illogical flourishes, the Cryosalide pod is a small wonder of production design, and Jean Rabasse deserves credit for crafting a fluorescent tomb so dynamic that “Oxygen” feels cinematic even within the narrow confines of its setting. From the moment Omicron wakes up — peeling away a synthetic cocoon from around her face and confronting the orbital screen above her, which pulses like a black hole displacing a starry patch of dark sky whenever MILO speaks — the pod feels like both a coffin and a womb in equal measure.

It’s fancy, and the fact that tampering with it supposedly violates European law raises a few eyebrows, but it’s also dehumanizing. That might have something to do with the lab rat motif that runs across the many hazy flashbacks in this restless film, each one of them puncturing its contained atmosphere and belying Aja’s unwillingness to convey the full claustrophobia of being stuck in a Jonny Ive death capsule. Or maybe it’s only natural for someone to feel like a piece of meat when they’re stuck inside a glorified freezer.

Either way, “Oxygen” is essentially an entire feature set inside the automated surgery table that Noomi Rapace uses to perform her own c-section in “Prometheus” (incidentally, Rapace was once tapped to star in this), and Aja works with cinematographer Maxime Alexandre and the rest of his crew to extrapolate bonafide action sequences from the Cryosalide’s basic functions. In a movie that often undercuts its own physical reality, “Oxygen” is never more intense than when Omicron is fighting off the articulating machine arm that tries to stick her with sedatives or yanking tubes out of her gut to stop MILO from giving her some even harder drugs.

Such visceral moments provide a sharp contrast to the phantom mystery that Omicrom is trying to solve in between, which is full of groan-worthy gaslighting and mind-boggling contrivances. LeBlanc’s script fills in almost every gap by the time it’s all said and done, but no movie about a person stuck in a tube should ever be this convoluted. There’s some potential fun to the fact that MILO holds all of the info that Omicron needs and is happy to give them to her so long as she asks the right questions; anyone who’s ever been frustrated by Siri’s literalness will be able to relate to Laurent’s frustration as she bangs her head against questions that are too abstract for an AI to answer.

Alas, “Oxygen” is too busy gasping for itself to embrace the Socratic method, and so there’s precious little payoff to the answers that it gradually teases out from MILO, and once the movie’s cards are on the table there isn’t any room left for it to play with them. Omicron barely has the energy required to post about what she’s learned along the way. While the light at the end of the tunnel actually illuminates a neat testament to the power of the survival instinct in all living things, Aja’s film loses so much air on the way to its grand finale that it barely has anything left to exhale by the time it’s over.

“Oxygen” will be available to stream on Netflix starting Wednesday, May 12.

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preview for Oxygen - Official Trailer (Netflix)

Oxygen review: Is Netflix's new sci-fi thriller worth a watch?

Don't forget to breathe.

Not all fears and phobias are universal. For instance, some people might be freaked out by rats, but others would (rightly) keep them as adorable pets.

However, there's absolutely nobody who would be perfectly chill with waking up in a confined space with limited oxygen and no way of escaping. It's exactly why being buried alive proves such rich ground for filmmakers, such as in Buried , because the mere thought of it would instantly terrify anybody.

Liz tries to rebuild her memory to find a way out of the predicament she finds herself in, but has she been buried alive or are the real reasons far darker than she can even imagine?

oxygen mélanie laurent

Related: Oxygen ending explained

No matter how horrifying the concept, single-location thrillers need an outstanding lead performance to fully work. Think Ryan Reynolds in Buried or Tom Hardy in Locke , and you can add Mélanie Laurent to that list as she's terrific in Oxygen .

Laurent has little to play with the movie's restricted set and with nobody to play against, bar Mathieu Amalric's disembodied voice as the pod's operator MILO. She manages to sell the sheer terror and panic of the situation, as well as investing you in Liz, which is no easy thing when she starts off as a blank slate. It's a magnetic and wide-ranging performance as Laurent rises to the solo task.

Director Alexandre Aja might be better known for his gory horrors, but Oxygen sees him operating on a more cerebral level. The movie still has its fair share of wince-inducing moments, especially if you've got a phobia of needles, yet the tension comes from the situation and Liz's rollercoaster of emotions.

oxygen mélanie laurent

It's all the more impressive considering that Oxygen commits to its single-location setting, with the audience only getting flashes of Liz's former life. You're left questioning whether they're memories or her mind's reaction to her traumatic circumstances, and it's almost a shame that the movie eventually has to piece the puzzle together for you.

Aja and writer Christie LeBlanc certainly pile on the twists which after the shocking first reveal somehow end up getting even wilder. Oxygen almost manages to keep you guessing right until the very end, but lays a certain aspect on too thick which means that anybody paying close attention will solve it before Liz does.

The movie does start to run out of steam as its mysteries are unveiled and exposition overtakes thrills. You should be feeling breathless as it reaches its climax, but instead you'll find yourself losing interest a bit. Where Buried ended with a dark flourish, Oxygen can't quite find the satisfying note to end on a strong note.

Thanks to Mélanie Laurent's excellent performance, Oxygen still captivates enough to be an effective high-concept thriller that absolutely confirms being buried alive would be the worst. Obviously.

Oxygen is available to watch on Netflix.

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Oxygen Reviews

movie review oxygen

Full Review | Original Score: B | Sep 7, 2011

movie review oxygen

Full Review | Original Score: B | Jan 1, 2011

Tierney definitely has what it takes to carry a film; it's unfortunate that this vehicle doesn't give her much of substance to carry.

Full Review | Original Score: 2/4 | Oct 23, 2006

movie review oxygen

Writer/director Richard Shepard manages a skilled, brilliantly-acted thriller with plenty of genuine suspense and fresh ideas.

Full Review | Original Score: 3/4 | May 26, 2006

movie review oxygen

Full Review | Original Score: 2/5 | Sep 3, 2005

movie review oxygen

Full Review | Original Score: C+ | Apr 9, 2005

movie review oxygen

A well-performed, well-written edge of the seat thriller

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Mar 31, 2005

movie review oxygen

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Feb 24, 2003

movie review oxygen

Full Review | Original Score: 9/10 | Jan 1, 2000

Full Review | Original Score: 76/100 | Jan 1, 2000

movie review oxygen

Brody gives the performance of his career, so far.

Full Review | Original Score: B | Jan 1, 2000

movie review oxygen

Full Review | Original Score: 3/5 | Jan 1, 2000

movie review oxygen

movie review oxygen

Oxygen Movie Review: A Claustrophobic Snooze Fest

  • May 12, 2021

Finn Schlote

The Illuminerdi reviews the newest Netflix thriller Oxygen , directed by Alexandre Aja.

Alexandre Aja is back. The director returns with his latest project following the release of his 2019 film Crawl , which has grown in popularity, while ending up being pretty successful at the global box-office, he now returned to the small screen with Oxygen , a claustrophobic chamber play starring Mélanie Laurent, who is best known for her role in Quentin Tarantino’s acclaimed Inglorious Basterds .

While I wasn’t the biggest fan of his last film it did surprise me, because it’s hard to not like a film about alligators hunting humans in a overflooded town, I found the trailer for Oxygen quite intriguing. But I have to say, the film left me quite disappointed.


There aren’t many ways to tell a rich story when the movie basically only takes place in a futuristic healing pod, and the bland screenplay written by Christie LeBlanc doesn’t help. It’s LeBlanc’s first feature film screenplay and only her second in general. It ultimately lacked the emotional depth to draw me into the story. There are attempts to develop Liz’s (Mélanie Laurent) backstory, but some of them get glossed over for the sake of plot twists. While the rest of the film is filled with things we have seen a hundred times before, that’s not enough to make you feel invested.


Mélanie Laurent delivers a great performance and definitely tries her best with what she was given. Alexandre Aja’s directing is precise. He knows exactly how to capture the feeling of claustrophobia and although the story is shallow, it does have great looking visuals. One amazing transition near the end of the movie definitely stayed with me.


As written above, Oxygen does have several plot twists and jump-scares. The plot twists are a double-edged sword, while all of them are quite surprising, every single one outdoes it’s predecessor in it’s ridiculousness. However, they also didn’t manage to keep my attention, nor get me invested.


While I think Oxygen will find its audience, I was really bored while watching it. Despite a great performance from Mélanie Laurent and some solid directing by Aja, ultimately the movie couldn’t hold it together.

Oxygen poster

Oxygen Synopsis

No escape, no memory, 90 minutes to live. Liz is running out of oxygen and time, in order to survive she must find a way to remember who she is. (Netflix)

Oxygen is globally available on Netflix. It is directed by Alexandre Aja and stars Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric and Malik Zidi. What do you all think? Are you planning to watch Oxygen ? Have you seen it already, if so how did you like it? Let’s discuss everything in the comments down below and on our Twitter .


  • Alexandre Aja , Mélanie Laurent , netflix , Oxygen , Review

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Oxygen parents guide

Oxygen Parent Guide

With no big set piece action scenes, this clever film relies on critical decisions to keep the audience invested..

Netflix: A woman wakes up to find herself in a cryogenic chamber with a desperate need to escape before the oxygen runs out.

Release date May 12, 2021

Run Time: 100 minutes

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The guide to our grades, parent movie review by keith hawkes.

Although waking up in the morning isn’t fun for everyone, it’s worse for some than others. For one young woman (Mélanie Laurent), waking up today means she finds herself sealed in a cryogenics pod. After she tears off some of her restraints, she meets MILO (Mathieu Amalric), the Artificial Intelligence responsible for managing her wellbeing and the pod’s systems. With no apparent contact with the outside world and dwindling oxygen supplies, she must work fast to find out what’s happening if she wants to make it out alive. But that’s not going to be easy, since she can’t seem to remember who she is or how she got there.

I was cautiously optimistic about this movie based solely on the one other film I’ve seen by director Alexandre Aja: namely, the disaster/thriller Crawl , which focuses on a young professional swimmer who sets out to evacuate her father while a Category 5 hurricane rocks the area, all in alligator infested waters. While Oxygen could not be any more different in terms of tone and content, I was relieved to see that Aja still has the ability to hold my attention.

Obviously this movie is a bad choice if you already have claustrophobia. If the thought of being more or less confined to a small pod for nearly two hours has you hyperventilating, then you’re better off finding something else to watch. However, there’s little else in this film to discourage viewers. The profanity is quite limited, there is no direct violence (apart from a few icky medical scenes involving needles), and there’s no sex or substance abuse to speak of. Apart from being unusual for a movie with a TV-MA rating, this is extra unusual for a French film. In my experience, they tend to push those boundaries a little more. If you don’t mind needles, confined spaces, brief profanity, or reading subtitles, you should find this thriller intriguing. I think Oxygen is well worth watching for most young adult or adult audiences. My recommendation? Watch is in a nice, bright, open room with a good breeze and natural light. I think watching this in a basement might be a mistake.

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Keith hawkes, watch the trailer for oxygen.

Oxygen Rating & Content Info

Why is Oxygen rated TV-MA? Oxygen is rated TV-MA by the MPAA

Violence: Some dead bodies with serious injuries are briefly seen. Lab rats are seen suffering as the result of procedures. Several scenes depict needles and medical equipment with some blood. Sexual Content: A married couple is seen in bed nude from the shoulders up. Profanity: There is one extreme profanity and several scatological terms. Alcohol / Drug Use: An individual is briefly shown smoking tobacco in the background of one shot.

Page last updated October 2, 2021

Oxygen Parents' Guide

What is the point of cryogenics? Where is that technology now? What other technologies in this film are based on real sciences? What are the ethical issues surrounding those developments?

Related home video titles:

This film has a good deal in common with Infinity Chamber . Other good sci-fi options include Moon, 2001: A Space Odyssey , and The Midnight Sky .

Related news about Oxygen

Coming to Netflix: May 2021

Coming to Netflix: May 2021


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An East Flatbush mother and daughter, barely surviving in an oxygen-less world, must band together to protect each other when intruders arrive claiming to know their missing father. An East Flatbush mother and daughter, barely surviving in an oxygen-less world, must band together to protect each other when intruders arrive claiming to know their missing father. An East Flatbush mother and daughter, barely surviving in an oxygen-less world, must band together to protect each other when intruders arrive claiming to know their missing father.

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‘Arcadian’ Is a Cut Above Most Nicolas Cage Thrillers

The three talented teenagers with whom cage generously shares the screen—maxwell jenkins, jaeden martell, and sadie soverall—are real discoveries i hope to see on the screen again soon..

movie review oxygen

In a creepy, dystopian future, 15 years after humanity has been decimated, a man simply named Paul ( Nicolas Cage ) and his adopted twin sons Thomas and Joseph struggle to survive in a nightmarish world dominated by carnivorous nocturnal monsters that devour everything that moves. Balanced and solid, with equal measures of terror and suspense, the movie is Arcadian and I’ll be darned if it didn’t scare the daylights out of me. 

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Economically directed by Benjamin Brewer with a welcome performance by a rare, understated Nicolas Cage, and carefully written by his manager, Mike Nilon, Arcadian is a combination of sci-fi horror film and tender coming-of-age drama, filmed in the remote pastoral beauty of Ireland that contrasts with the hidden horrors behind each hill and vale. Humans are believed to be extinct, but Paul optimistically thinks there are other people somewhere, ready to appear from beyond the next knoll and save them. No one does, so it’s up to the brothers to provide the only sense of safety in numbers they need. Unlike most fright flicks, Arcadian also gives the boys a gratifying sense of character delineation—Joseph is brainy, Thomas pragmatic and logical. Aside from them and a neighboring family with a teenage daughter, relationships with the outside world do not exist. Isolation and loneliness prevail, danger lurks behind every bolted door, and to make things doubly unnerving, with no electricity, most of the movie takes place in the dark or by candlelight.

One night Thomas breaks curfew to steal a clandestine visit with Charlotte, the only girl in his realm, and when his father sets out through the woods to search for him, he is severely injured. After Charlotte’s father cruelly refuses the only medicine that can save Paul, it’s up to the boys to save their Dad and forge a new family dynamic. The director cleverly refrains from giving away too much about the monsters in waiting, forcing us to use our own imaginations, but when they do arrive, crashing through the roof and the floors of the farmhouse, they are savage creatures unlike anything ever seen on film before. The kids are fearless and resourceful enough to keep viewer interest focused and human enough to make up for any technical deficiencies. There are some. What really happened to cause the apocalypse? The boys own a motor vehicle for escape, but where do they get the gasoline?  They also have an endless supply of beautiful flowers and delicious vegetables, but where do they find the seeds?

Never mind. Arcadian is satisfying entertainment; it’s a cut above most Nicolas Cage thrillers, and the three talented teenagers with whom he generously shares the screen— Maxwell Jenkins as Thomas, Jaeden Martell as Joseph, and Sadie Soverall as Charlotte—are real discoveries I hope to see on the screen again soon. There is value in the ways they find hope and resolve as the film builds to a finale of paralyzing terror. Your move.

‘Arcadian’ Is a Cut Above Most Nicolas Cage Thrillers

  • SEE ALSO : How Opera’s Crisis Can Become an Opera Renaissance

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All six of ‘the omen’ movies, ranked.

The horror franchise returns to theaters with 'The First Omen,' a prequel to the 1976 original.

By Richard Newby

Richard Newby

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THE FIRST OMEN, Nell Tiger Free, 2024.

The Omen was never conceived with the intention of spawning a franchise and yet it has remained one of Hollywood’s most enduring horror properties.

The original theatrical trilogy ended in the early ’80s, when religious horror gave way to slasher film. But in five short years, The Omen had cemented a legacy within pop culture. The Antichrist, the number of the beast (666) and even the name “Damien” became fixtures in our lexicon. The Omen sustained itself within the zeitgeist for decades without new entries, a rarity within the genre. And now, Damien’s hold grows once more, with a new offering.

Arkasha Stevenson’s The First Omen , a prequel to the 1976 original , is now in theaters to entice audiences with new terrors and shocking revelations. Timed to the franchise’s rebirth, we’re counting down every entry of the Omen franchise, from worst to best:

6. The Omen IV: The Awakening (1991)

I cannot in good faith say that Jorge Montesi and Dominique Othenin-Girard’s made-for-television sequel, Omen IV: The Awakening is a good movie. I can’t tell you it’s particularly well-written or well-conceived. But what I can tell you is that it made me laugh, quite a lot, and for that reason, I can’t say that it’s not worth your time.

Set several years after Damien’s death in The Final Conflict , The Awakening sees the birth of a girl, Delia, who is adopted by a young Virginian congressman, Gene York (Michael York) and his wife Karen (Faye Grant). As Delia (Asia Vieira) grows into childhood, she begins exhibiting strange behavior along with a mean streak that veers into camp. For the most part, The Awakening is a far less effective retread of The Omen , and often borders on parody. I’d argue it plays better if you watch it as a parody. The addition of some new-age crystal nonsense, a snake-infested tent revival, and an overly complicated third-act reveal add a few more wrinkles to keep you awake, and from the film feeling entirely like a remake.

5. The Omen (2006)

THE OMEN, Liev Schreiber, David Thewlis, 2006.

Speaking of remakes, we all too quickly arrive at John Moore’s The Omen , which came out during the heyday of classic horror remakes. The remake isn’t a bad film, and it’s got a winning cast of actors to class it up with Liev Schreiber, Julia Stiles, David Thewlis, Pete Postlethwaite and Michael Gambon, which does give it a certain level of prestige lacking from other horror remakes at the time. The film’s biggest flaw, however, outside of making Damien (Seamus Davey-Fitzpatrick) look so conspicuously evil that it’s sometimes comedic, is how close it hews to the original, offering very little in the way of newness. The screenplay, written by Dan McDermott, was so similar to David Seltzer’s original that the WGA gave sole screenwriting credit to Seltzer despite, his having no involvement with the remake. Well-acted and shot with a recognizable style of mid-2000s gothic gloom, The Omen remake isn’t anywhere near being an insult to the original, but it lacks the ambition every other theatrical Omen film has had.

4. Damien: Omen II (1978)

Despite the original film’s implication that Damien would be adopted by the President and First Lady, and have free reign in the White House, Don Taylor’s sequel picks up with an adolescent Damien (Jonathan Scott-Taylor) who is now living with his industrialist uncle Richard Thorn (William Holden) and aunt Ann (Lee Grant) in Chicago, and attending military school alongside his cousin Mark (Lucas Donat). The film successfully juggles the notions that Damien is burdened by his great and evil purpose, and is actually a decent, likable person, and could’ve remained so if not for the forces pushing him in the direction of evil. The original film touches on these devout forces operating on Damien’s behalf and this film pushes that even further, raising the question of whether Damien was born inherently evil or whether his servants’ belief allows such evil to form without consequences. There’s an engaging consideration of modern-day plagues through the lens of corporate science ventures, and a genuinely surprising third-act twist that adds some additional layers to the story. While not as startling as the original film, Omen II is a solid follow-up that teeters between the tone of the original and its sequel, keeping one foot in the realm of conceivable drama and the other into a somewhat absurdist, though welcome, arena of B-movie horror.

3. Omen III: The Final Conflict (1981)

The Final Conflict, (aka OMEN III), Sam Neill, 1981.

Graham Baker’s third installment in The Omen franchise features a devil so charming, you almost hate to see him go. Sam Neill turns on the smolder as 33-year-old Damien Thorne, an international businessman and recent appointee as U.S. Ambassador to the United Kingdom. Damien has embraced his role as the Antichrist and is working to ensure mankind’s destruction. Yet, one thorn remains in his side, the coming of the new Christ child. While Christian assassins, led by Father DeCarlo (Rossano Brazzi), make plans to finally put an end to the Antichrist, Damien begins his own hunt for the new messiah, while also expanding his flock by romancing journalist Kate Reynolds (Lisa Harrow) and manipulating her son, Peter (Barnaby Holm), into becoming his disciple. Neil is great fun to watch and really drives the film, but The Final Conflict isn’t devoid of some splashy set pieces, and there’s a sequence in which Damien plays out Herod’s Massacre of the Innocents in a way that is still quite shocking. The Final Conflict goes headfirst into the ’80s, operating with an excess that sheds the classiness of where the franchise started and fully embraces religious horror with buck-wild, scenery-chewing enthusiasm.

2. The First Omen (2024)

The sixth entry in the Omen franchise lives up to the number of the beast, with director Arkasha Stevenson delivering a hellishly glorious film that takes full advantage of its ’70s setting through camerawork and Aaron Morton’s cinematography, which evoke that era of filmmaking. Set in the days before Damien’s birth, the prequel film centers on Margaret (Nell Tiger Free ), a young American novitiate who is sent to care for orphans at a church in Rome. There, she connects with a mysterious young girl, Carlita (Nicole Sorace), and uncovers a dark conspiracy within the church. Prequels are often difficult, given their nature of leading to events we already know. But, The First Omen skillfully weaves through the familiar, making smart use of The Omen ’s Father Brennan (Ralph Ineson), while creating something that feels new and that abstains from contradicting the events of the original film. It achieves what only the best prequels do, which is that it is additive to the experience of the original film. There’s also the factor that The First Omen is a damn creepy affair that pushes boundaries and, in moments, proves so shocking that it’s hard to believe this was a studio release (from Disney, no less) and wasn’t slapped with an NC-17 rating. Certainly, by today’s standards, the film is the scariest of the franchise. Free’s performance is a sight to behold, and in a franchise concerned with motherhood though rarely women, she creates a complex humanity within Margaret alongside a kind of inspiring respect as she becomes increasingly, dangerously, unhinged. While it’s following in the footsteps of The Omen , The First Omen also feels like a necessary investigation into the role of the church, women and what we have to fear in today’s society.

1. The Omen (1976)

THE OMEN, Lee Remick, Harvey Stephens, Gregory Peck, 1976

Richard Donner’s seminal classic popularized the idea of the Antichrist in a world where Christianity was just beginning to take hold in America once again, with born-again Christianity popularized by then-presidential hopeful, Jimmy Carter. Carter wasn’t only responsible for bringing born-again Christianity to the mainstream, but he also helped close the divide between rural and urban demographics, uniting Democratic and Republican voters under his Democratic run. He succeeded and as a result, Republicans worked even harder to re-open that rift between voters in such a way it could not be closed again. All of this is crucial to understanding why The Omen works so well, and despite initial mixed reviews, struck a chord with audiences. Gregory Peck and Lee Remick play the unfortunate parents of Damien (Harvey Spencer Stephens), the Antichrist. While David Seltzer’s original script favored ambiguity over whether Damien was or wasn’t the son of Satan, Donner wanted deliberate confirmation, a clear answer that evil existed and hell was real — which, given the time of its release, only worked in the film’s favor. Looking back on The Omen today, it’s quite interesting how little time Peck’s Richard Thorn spends with Damien. There’s not a relationship established between them, so it’s less of an example of the housebound ‘evil child’ subgenre, and more of an investigative road trip with Thorn and photographer Keith Jennings (David Warner) digging deeper into the nature of evil, until they lose themselves in the process. Donner’s Omen works as well as it does and stands apart from the other significant religious horror films of the time, Rosemary’s Baby (1968) and The Exorcist (1973), leaning on Donner’s previous experience directing detective-centric television series like Cannon , Kojak , and Bronk . While further films held a light up to the face of evil, diminishing some of evil’s mystique, Donner kept it largely in the shadows and let the mystery lead the characters, and audiences, further down into the dark.

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Cheap smoke-machine effects … Peter Facinelli, Fiona Dourif and Asher Angel in On Fire.

On Fire review – smoke-filled disaster movie asks God to help out with climate crisis

Co-director and star Peter Facinelli must rescue his family trapped by a wildfire, but while he digs deep to save them the film dodges the really big question raised here

I t is a truth almost universally acknowledged that eco-thrillers are films that preach to the converted. So, fair dos to this environmental drama for also preaching to another cohort of the converted: Christians. The script shoehorns in a few prayer scenes to appeal to viewers of faith – though cynics might think it is a shameless attempt to cover all audience bases. The story follows a family caught up in a wildfire raging out of control in California , shot in a throwback style to vintage disaster movies of the 80s – though clearly on a tight budget that really shows in some cheap smoke-machine effects.

Dave (played by co-director Peter Facinelli) is a builder who lives with his eight-months-pregnant wife Sarah (Fiona Dourif) and their teenage son in a house in the California forest; his elderly dad is in a mobile home in the garden. None of them are too concerned when a wildfire tears through a neighbouring community. Still, their home isn’t insured, so Dave drives off to the hardware store for supplies. He’s out when the evacuation order is issued for their area. Somehow Dave must dodge the police roadblock to reach his family and get them to safety (while finding time to squeeze in the odd plea to Him upstairs for help).

There is something depressingly retro about a plot that hinges on a man digging deep to heroically rescue his family. The two-dimensional stock characters don’t help; in fact, the performance of the film belongs to Ashlei Foushee playing a 911 operator, Kayla. The action switches to her taking increasingly desperate calls, feeling more and more helpless. Inevitably, Kayla’s story overlaps with Dave’s, before the movie fizzles out with a cop-out ending that dodges the big question raised here. When people lose everything in a climate-change related disaster, who should pick up the bill to rebuild lives and communities? You won’t find any answers in this movie.

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