Vampire Owl: I had earlier heard that vampires no longer required oxygen to survive.
Vampire Bat: Is this a result of one of the experiments of Doctor Frankenstein?
Vampire Owl: Yes, he has actually found a substitute this time.
Vampire Bat: You shouldn’t really trust him about controversial inventions.
Vampire Owl: You have been talking about our best scientist for so long.
Vampire Bat: I wonder why you are not able to understand the difference between a scientist and an alchemist.
Vampire Owl: Well, alchemist degree is no longer a valid one.
Vampire Bat: He has passed only BSc. Alchemy, I am telling you.
Vampire Owl: When he cleared the degree, it was a valid subject.
Vampire Bat: You are going to be struggling for survival, if you go with what he provides.
[Gets a blueberry cake and three cups of black tea].
What is the movie about? :: Elizabeth Hansen (Melanie Laurent) wakes up in a medical cryogenic unit with no memory of who she is, and how she got there. The Artificial Intelligence machines which was supposed to take care of the system informs her that the oxygen level is low, and her request to go out of the unit will not be accepted. She is also informed that despite the failure of the unit being reported, nobody has come up with a reply. The advanced Artificial Intelligence with which she communicates is named MILO (Medical Interface Liaison Officer) tells her that she is identified as Omicron 267, and is not known by any other name. Her medical report is not available, even though she is there to get better after being sick after some point of time. External communication is not available, but she is finally able to transmit the details of her situation outside the unit through emergency services. The police are confused as she can give them no information of use about herself or her present location. She is able to provide them with the unit’s model and serial number, which are printed on the interior. But she is told the unit was destroyed three years prior.
So, what happens with the events here as we just keep looking? :: A DNA analysis provides a match for her though, and it shows pictures of her, which helps her to identify her name as well as an an idea of her work, and up-to an extent, some idea about her family. She is told that she has forty three to seventy two minutes remaining with her Oxygen level. When her medical report finally becomes available, she is shown as perfectly healthy, much to her dismay. She does find the number of her husband, but another woman answers, and that doesn’t help her cause at all. Some of the memories seem to come back to her, but she is not certain about them. Soon, palliative care is ready to be deployed, but she stops the same, even though threatened against doing the same. She tries to cause destruction to the unit, but gets an electric shock in return. With only a few minutes of oxygen left, how long can she stay strong enough, and alive? Is there something sinister behind her being locked in the cryo unit? Who could be find all the trouble that she has to face? Is there some secret which only she knew before being locked in there, or is there an even bigger mystery that involves many people?
The defence of Oxygen :: The movie keeps us interested in the protagonist, as we hope for information about her, and it moves between optimism and pessimism at regular intervals, with more and more knowledge about the person coming to light. There are questions being asked here, about life, what is means to be human, and how memories make a person or destroy one. There is always more and more doubts about the nature of humanity and its existence, and one is reminded of minuteness with one grand shot of the whole space with the chamber unit – it is a thing of glory, well-designed and of quality. We do make many guesses about what is happening out there, and where the protagonist is, but there are twists which are good enough to bring another series of guesses – only a very few of those guesses come true in this case. There is the mystery to be solved and revelations to be made, as we look forward to finding the truth and hoping that our protagonist is saved. The progression of this movie a reminder to many people on how to use the minimum materials to the maximum effect – as long as you have a leading actress who can do wonders.
Positives and negatives :: The movie can feel a little too long because all the action is set in the chamber unit which feels like a coffin. Some of the initial moments are the ones which provides that particular feeling, and the rest has us discovering more and more about the protagonist well enough. The pace is never really increased as we look at it, and there are similarities with other movies, even though this has the feeling of a perfect new space which is not explored as it is, ever before. People might have also wanted this movie to progress in some other ways instead how it has gone forward. There could have also been more visuals of the world by the end, but I would guess that they didn’t want the scenes to move outside much at all. One also feels the need to see the life on the new planet instead of just one scene – there have been many films which have people traveling to another planet, but there is not even one which shows what happens after they reach there and start a civilization. Well, we are the fans of Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Warcraft and others – we need to see that one in another world, and we are yet to see the same on the screen with effectiveness.
Performers of the soul :: We know Melanie Laurent the most from two movies, the critically acclaimed Enemy and the crowd favourite Now You See Me, both being films which can be watched many times. She has been part of other movies to remember, and this one is going to have bigger status among such films, with a performance which is focused on her. Even though there are some people being shown in flashback memories, the present is all about her, and she makes sure that there is perfection when it is about her. The other people whom we notice are one in the form of the Artificial Intelligence and the other is the person who are regular in the flashbacks. The success of this performance from Melanie lies in the fact that she makes us go through the different emotions of her with ease. We are able to relate to the person and what she is going through, thanks to her perfect run through the emotions, the journey from not knowing to what she comes to know, as well as what she comes against, as wrong information. We also have the doubts that she has, and sometimes even more than what she comes up against, in a small world resembling a coffin. It is not just her character battling out there, as we are also part of the same.
How it finishes :: The director of this movie is known for some of the most memorable thrillers, with the last one being Crawl, with one crocodile on the hunt – you remember that his first English film was The Hills Have Eyes, and movies like Mirrors and Maniac provide further testimony to his skills, even though those were closer to horror rather than any other genre of significance. This one comes as a science fiction thriller, and it is also one effective thing in the genre, adding to Gravity, The Interstellar and The Martian from one angle, while it is also a survival thriller like The Shallows and Buried. Yet, one movie which this one reminds us of, is Meander, considering being locked in small spaces, and having almost no idea of what is happening around. Related to these movies, our movie here also has a solid status for sure. With its surprises, and possessing a fine performance from one person at the centre of all of these, the movie is a thing of quality. It might feel long due to being located at one place at all times, but this is one film which you feel the need to keep going as you hope for a person’s survival against all odds.
Release date: 12th May 2021 (Netflix)
Running time: 101 minutes
Directed by: Alexandre Aja
Starring: Melanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi
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@ Cemetery Watch
✠ The Vampire Bat.