Meewella | Critic

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Tag: Mélanie Laurent

QuickView: Oxygen (2021)

“I cannot satisfy that request.”


A French sci-fi take on Buried, a scientist wakes up in a sealed cryogenic pod with no memory of how she ended up there, her only hope of rescue being calls to the outside. Although perfect for shooting during the pandemic, Oxygen had been in development for several years before. The entire film rests on Mélanie Laurent’s performance, which deftly slides between agitated and analytical, fearful and ferocious. Her primary contact is an A.I. named M.I.L.O. (Medical Inferface Liason Officer) who is monitoring her pod but refuses to allow her to leave. The pod’s futuristic design is less claustrophobic than Buried’s coffin — it actually feels more like Locke’s car, a confined modern space that is shot with attractive lighting. Oxygen is less committed to the experimental conceit than those films as, although we only hear others as disembodied voices, we frequently cut to the protagonist’s clouded memory fragments. This is purposeful, since Oxygen has a broader science fiction story to build out from within its restricted set. The result is less noteworthy an achievement, but a compelling and memorable tale nonetheless.


QuickView: Operation Finale (2018)

“If you succeed, for the first time in our history we will judge our executioner. And we will warn off any who wishes to follow his example. If you fail, he escapes justice, perhaps forever. I beg you. Do not fail.”

David Ben-Gurion

A historical thriller based on the capture of notorious Nazi officer Adolf Eichmann (a major organiser of the Holocaust who escaped to Argentina after the war) to stand trial in Israel, Operation Finale is at its strongest in its quiet moments. Ben Kingsley as Eichmann and Oscar Isaac as Peter Malkin, one of his captors, perform compellingly as their conversations in a Mossad safehouse form a tense game in which they probe one another for weaknesses. Kingsley provides a measured portrayal of Eichmann as dispassionately remorseless rather than a frothing monster (what Hannah Arendt described as “the banality of evil”) and the film avoids melodrama in its restrained Holocaust depictions, though some will doubtless find the result too sympathetic to one who facilitated so much death. Eichmann’s personality is contrasted against the the visceral anger and desire for revenge felt by the Mossad agents forced into proximity with their enemy, as well as the guilt that haunts them for past crimes. Little time is spent on the trial itself, and the impact of worldwide broadcast of holocaust eyewitness testimony is somewhat lost in favour of the hollow sense of personal vindication.


"A film is a petrified fountain of thought."

(CC) BY-NC 2003-2023 Priyan Meewella

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