is a good film in the sense that it likely wasn’t meant to be anything more than simply average. Thanks to our good friend, COVID, it reveals itself to be slightly above average due to the way the narrative weaves in a global pandemic as an instigator behind almost all the events that transpire. Even with someone as reasonably talented as Alexandre Aja
, previously known for creature features such as Piranha 3D
(2010) and Crawl
(2019), behind the camera, the saving grace of the film, other than an excellent performance from Mélanie Laurent
, may just be the sheer coincidence of being affected by the kind of catastrophe it portrays. The script was finished long before the virus was even a thought, and production was even slated to begin just before the shutdown. However, unlike most everything else the pandemic has already affected, the delay was probably for the best. The limited, confined production, which was ultimately completed in Aja’s native France while the country was still in panic mode, allows the film to pack a timely and oddly refreshing punch that saves it from its more derivative features, which would have derailed it at any other point in time.
These confines won’t really encourage you to read the film as a metaphor for the nerve-inducing experience we’ve all been through over the last year, however — and in the interest of maintaining your dignity, you probably shouldn’t. While the sociopolitical commentary may have worked for the similarly-themed Buried
(2010), in which we find Ryan Reynolds on his own buried alive in the Middle East, but this futuristic take on the premise is best left as a piece of distracting entertainment. Nevertheless, the atmosphere is no less suffocating, literally and dramatically.
Beginning with a young woman (Laurent), dubbed “Omicron 267,” who awakens in a cryogenic chamber with no recollection of who she is or why she’s there, her only solution is to use the space at her disposal, namely the guiding Q&A she has with the high-tech chamber’s artificial intelligence, MILO (Mathieu Amalric
), in order to recover what memories she can of her previous life while also working to preserve the dwindling oxygen supply that will ultimately determine her fate. The first matter of business is taken care of rather quickly, as she uses her wit and her careful choice of words with MILO to discover her name: Liz. From there, her interactions begin to jog her memory, but her attempts to contact the outside do more harm than good as what she begins to perceive as true is questioned, frustrating the viewer as much as her when it becomes clear that not every memory she recalls is real.
It’s in moments such as this when the real-time effect of the narrative accomplishes wonders, for we begin to feel every bit of confusion and desperation along with Liz as her situation becomes all the more dire and her pleas for help seem to fall on deaf ears. The constant, bordering on ubiquitous, extreme close-up camera angles do their part as well, capturing Mélanie Laurent in every bit of the frame when necessary, a twofold exercise that gives the chamber its claustrophobia while also providing an unbridled intimacy to Liz’s memories. Laurent herself carries the film from beginning to end, using her physical presence to hoist the film’s emotional punch, especially in the moments in which Christie LeBlanc’s screenplay can’t seem to do that itself. Laurent has lately been finding great success with her directing career ever since her breakout performance in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds