Tag Archives: The Oath

I Don’t Want to Go Out—Week of January 7

Holidays are over, work is already a drag, who wants to just snuggle up and watch a movie? There is one great one available this week. Also one that’s got some promise, even if it derails. Then there’s one that’s frustrating because we really wanted to like it.

Click the film title for the full review.


The Oath

Hell Fest

Screening Room: Old Tricks, New Treats

The Screening Room breaks down the new Halloween, talks through The Oath and the new YA The Hate U Give. Plus, we’ll run through what’s worth watching in new home entertainment releases.

Listen to the full podcast HERE.


The Oath

by Hope Madden

The Oath, writer/director/star Ike Barinholtz’s deep, dark comedy of manners and political upheaval, almost feels like a prequel to The Purge franchise.

As Kai (Tiffany Haddish, criminally underused) and Chris (Barinholtz) prepare for the yearly celebration of family dysfunction that is Thanksgiving, pressure within and outside the house builds around the US government’s new Patriot’s Oath.

This oath is a pledge of unfaltering dedication to the president. It is voluntary—and anyone who loves America would certainly volunteer. Deadline for signing is Black Friday.

The premise allows Barinholtz to mine the old dinner table comedy concept for insights about a divided nation. As lead, he creates a self-righteous liberal who’s quick to judge, blindly passionate and dismissive of other opinions.

Chris’s opposite this holiday season is not exactly his conservative brother Pat (played by actual brother Jon Barinholtz) as much as it is Pat’s Tomi Lahren-esque girlfriend, Abbie (perfectly played by Meredith Hagner). The rest of the family —played by Nora Dunn, Carrie Brownstein, and Chris Ellis —fall somewhere between the two on the political spectrum. Mainly, they’d just like some quiet to enjoy their turkey.

The Oath exacerbates tensions with an all-too-relevant and believable horror, but makes a wild tonal shift when two government officials (John Cho, Billy Magnussen) arrive on Black Friday to talk to Chris, who hasn’t signed.

Barinholtz’s premise is alarmingly tight. Equally on-target is the tension about sharing holidays with politically opposed loved ones, as well as the image of our irrevocably altered news consumption. But beyond that, The Oath doesn’t offer a lot of insight.

It makes some weird decisions and Barinholtz’s dialog—especially the quick one-offs—are both character defining and often hilarious. But as a black comedy, The Oath can’t decide what it delivers. A middle class family comfortably in the suburbs faces the unthinkable: potential incarceration and separation with no true justice system in place to work for their freedom.

Unfortunately, this actually describes far too many immigrant families for the film to pull that final punch. Barinholtz settles, offering a convenient resolution that robs his film of any credibility its first two acts had earned.

Playing God

The Oath

by Hope Madden

A fight for alpha ensues with a rugged Icelandic backdrop in director Baltasar Kormákur’s latest, The Oath.

Kormákur, a filmmaker known for action-heavy thrillers, also stars as Finnur, a surgeon with some family troubles.

Though his young wife and small daughter seem picture-perfect, Finnur’s 18-year-old daughter from a previous marriage, Anna (Hera Hilmar), is spiraling out of control. An entitled party girl, her drug flirtation blossoms into a full-blown habit, much thanks to her love interest and dealer, Óttar (Gísli Örn Garðarsson).

Finnur’s increasingly reckless behavior, all aimed at removing Óttar from Anna’s life, points as much to a need for control as it does misdirected protectiveness. The film’s title refers to the surgeon’s oath never to play god – which, of course, surgeons do daily. It’s an occupational habit, though, that Finnur is bringing into his time outside the office.

As director, Kormákur works to make both men equally detestable and tender. Óttar is vulgar and brutish, but regardless of the havoc he wreaks or the horror he threatens as Finnur tries harder and harder to separate the lovers, his affection for Anna feels authentic.

Likewise, Finnur’s behavior oscillates between imprudent protectiveness and troubling malevolence. Kormákur’s performance is the picture of restraint, his conflict primarily dealt with internally. It robs the film of some excitement but delivers tension and urgency.

Though both male leads impress, it’s really Hilmar who leaves a mark. Vulnerable, naïve and headstrong, her Anna’s a perfectly frustrating culmination of post-adolescent volatility.

The Oath lacks the slick production values and audience-friendly narrative found primarily in Kormákur’s English-language product (2 Guns, Everest, Contraband), favoring grittier fare and more subdued energy. These are choices that benefit the story, although Kormákur struggles to maintain a tone that suits the tale.

Finnur’s behavior at a highly critical point feels nefarious in a way that doesn’t fit Kormákur’s characterization, and his actions are so atrocious that the resolution feels unsatisfyingly easy. The Oath dips into horror territory, not necessarily a bad thing, but the film can’t make its shifting approach feel anything but jarring – as if an entirely different film landed around Act 3, then vanished for the final reel or so.