Hi, this is Barry, and welcome to my site. Oxygen (Oxygène) is a 2021 French science-fiction thriller directed by Alexandre Aja. The film is centred on a woman who wakes up in a medical cryo pod, not knowing who she is or who put her in there. Over the course of the movie, she slowly gets back segments of her memory and pieces together the puzzle to understand what is going on. Mélanie Laurent (Enemy) is the sole character in the film has done a fabulous job. Without further ado, here’s the plot walkthrough and ending of the 2021 French movie Oxygène / Oxygen explained; spoilers ahead.
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Oxygen Movie Ending Explained: What happened? What is the meaning?
The ending of the movie Oxygen reveals that Earth’s humans are dying because of a virus, and Liz is actually a clone of Elizabeth Hansen, who is part of a mission that involves sending 10,000 people to populate a planet 14 light-years from Earth. Liz successfully diverts power from the process that handles disaster scenarios to the one that ensures her brain functions are in check. The request to redirect Oxygen from other damaged pods to hers would take about 10 days to initiate for security reasons. But with Liz put back in a cryosleep state, that would allow enough time for the system to oxygenate her pod before being resuscitated. In the end, the clones of Leo and Liz are united on this new planet along with the remaining survivors and successfully start a new human colony.
Oxygen Movie: What happened to Earth? What’s going on?
In the movie Oxygen, humans are infected by a deadly virus that kills millions. There appears to be no cure, and in two generations, humans will all die out. The ‘dying out‘ part is kept secret to ensure the survivors don’t panic. While the remaining humans are told that a cure is on the way, the authorities come up with a plan of sending a ship to a planet 14 light-years from Earth. This ship has 10,000 pods with people and clones in hypersleep.
The planet they have identified does not rotate, and therefore one half of it is scorching and the other frigid. Scientists have determined that the border of day and night on this planet is suitable for humans. The journey to this planet will take 34 years, and the film is set 12 years after the spaceship commences its mission.
Who is Elizabeth Hansen? What has she done?
Elizabeth Hansen is a scientist who has been working on memory transfer from one being to another. She has a breakthrough in testing it on rats first, where one that has never experienced a maze knows its way out because of the memories given to it from another rat that already understood that maze. Furthermore, she tests this on cloned rats. Elizabeth eventually clones herself and copies her memories over to ensure that a copy of herself can reach the destination planet.
Who is Liz? Who put Liz in the pod? Why can’t she remember anything?
Liz is Elizabeth’s clone who has Elizabeth’s memories. The plan is that her clone would land on the new planet with the memories of Elizabeth and live her life with the clone of Elizabeth’s dead husband, Leo. Liz (the clone) wakes up prematurely and therefore has partial memory that slowly begins coming to her in pieces. Perhaps the memory transfer is a much longer process, and because it is incomplete, Liz does not remember much.
What happened to Leo Ferguson?
Leo was Elizabeth Hansen’s husband. He was infected by the virus and died because of it. On the ship to the new planet, there is a clone of Leo and Elizabeth, injected with memories of their original selves. While Leo’s clone is successfully in his hypersleep, Liz’s pod malfunctions, and she’s woken up 12 years into the 34-year journey.
Oxygen Movie: Plot Explained
I will henceforth refer to the main character as Liz, who is Elizabeth’s clone.
The movie begins with Liz waking up because the ship collides with an asteroid that damages over 400 of the 10,000 pods onboard. While all the other damaged pods’ people die, Liz is lucky to have only a process failure that wakes her up and is losing Oxygen due to a malfunction.
Liz initially thinks she’s been kidnapped or is sick and is in a medical cryo-unit on Earth. Liz talks with the A.I operator MILO to understand who she is and what might have happened to her. With vivid memories of her life, she uses her DNA to identify who she is. Liz tries calling the cops, and her brief conversation results in the ministry getting involved.
Who’s Captain Moreau, and what’s he up to?
Captain Moreau is from the ministry and is trying to stall. He’s merely saying everything Liz wants to hear. He’s lying to keep her calm, trying to keep her from recovering her memories. Why? Well, if Liz remembers everything, there is no saying who she’ll call. Remember, back on Earth, no one knows that humans are a dying species. Liz making calls to people could create the situation to spiral out of control. Captain Moreau is following protocol – that when anyone in the pods wakes up before they are out of reach of Earth’s communication, the clones are to be kept disoriented until their Oxygen runs out. This is why Captain Moreau tells Liz that Leo is not real and her mind is confused.
Who is the woman that Liz is talking to?
It is Elizabeth Hansen, but Liz doesn’t know this. Liz recollects Leo Furguson’s name, her husband, and calls him. Elizabeth picks up the call and quickly realizes that it’s her clone calling her and that some malfunction might have happened. Elizabeth disconnects. Later on, Elizabeth grows a conscience and calls Liz to understand the problem and help her survive the journey.
Elizabeth gives Liz the admin codes and proves to her with zero gravity that Liz is in outer space and that opening the pod will instantly end her life. Elizabeth also explains the virus and how it ravaged the planet and that Leo was real and died because of the plague. Without letting Liz know she’s her clone, Elizabeth tells Liz that she’s been in hypersleep for 12 years. After that, she explains that Liz needs to redirect power from a non-essential processor to the one that will allow her to get back into hypersleep. And that Liz needs to get back into hypersleep when there is still 2% Oxygen left else her resuscitation will fail. Elizabeth gets interrupted as the ministry traces her call and arrests her for breaking protocol.
Oxygen Movie: What does “Find Leo” mean?
Elizabeth says, “Find Leo” because she knows a clone of Leo is onboard and locating him might give Liz the will to fight to survive. Liz tries her best to remember which non-essential process she needs to find to help divert power from it. Elizabeth had initially worked on the pods, and ideally, Liz should gain those memories, but she struggles to recollect.
When the Oxygen level gets very low, Liz considers suicide by opening the pod but finally remembers Leo’s pod number and verifies that he’s on the ship too. Initially, she thinks all her callers lied about Leo, but then Liz notices that Leo’s missing a scar on his head. This leads her to check up on current videos of herself and realizes that she’s a younger clone of the original Elizabeth, who’s aged now and still on Earth and was her mystery caller.
Oxygen Movie: What is that feather thing Leo is working on?
It’s the entry system. That fan is the mechanism that each pod will deploy on entering the new planet’s atmosphere. Each pod will then safely decelerate and land on the surface. It appears that Leo was a scientist who worked on the entry system before he got sick.
Here’s a slow-motion video of a falling maple seed which the entry system is based on – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZUEXKapAVcY
Call To Liz’s Mother
Liz makes a call to her mother, well Elizabeth’s mother, to tell her that she loves her. Liz’s mother naturally assumes she’s talking to the real Elizabeth and even asks why she didn’t come to meet her over the weekend. Liz might have been in hypersleep for 12 years, but Elizabeth has been regularly meeting her mother.
Charitable Euthanasia Protocol and Liz’s Fight To Survive
When Oxygen levels become 3%, a Euthanasia protocol is initiated, and Liz just manages to unplug herself fully to avoid the death serum. This leads Liz to identify the processor that handles disaster scenarios, basically responsible for terminating her peacefully in case of emergencies. She diverts power from this processor to the one that will get her back into hypersleep, and that is one problem solved.
Solving the Oxygen problem
Now she’s low on Oxygen, and levels under 2% will not be enough to resuscitate her. Liz realizes that 400 other units were damaged and learns that 187 of them are in full Oxygen capacity. She requests MILO to divert the Oxygen to her pod. MILO tells her that it will take 14,227 minutes (about 10 days) to ignore the security restriction for a command like this. But MILO mentions that it can be done after Liz is put back into hypersleep. Liz plugs herself back into the pod and instructs MILO to put her back into hypersleep and then divert Oxygen to her pod.
Given she has only minutes of Oxygen left, it’s not clear how she can survive in her pod for 10 days before the Oxygen supply is back. I guess the assumption here is that she will no longer need Oxygen to live once she’s in hypersleep. All the Oxygen that will be routed to her pod will only come in handy to help resuscitate her after the journey ends 22 years later.
22 years later, Liz unites with Leo’s clone and the other survivors. They successfully land on the planet with the entry mechanism and begin a new life on this small section of the planet with Earth-like conditions. The final scene shows both clones embrace as they look forward to their new lives. What happens to Earth? Nothing, the humans will perish, but the planet will carry on.
Barry is a technologist who helps start-ups build successful products. His love for movies and production has led him to write his well-received film explanation and analysis articles to help everyone appreciate the films better. He’s regularly available for a chat conversation on his website and consults on storyboarding from time to time.
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