×

Toronto Film Review: ‘The Oath’

Baltasar Kormakur directs himself as a surgeon who resorts to extreme measures when his daughter falls for a drug dealer.

With:
Baltasar Kormakur, Hera Hilmar, Gisli Orn Gardarsson, Margret Bjarnadottir, Gudrun Sesselja Arnardottir.

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4433890/

Directing himself in a starring role for the first time, Baltasar Kormakur enters Liam Neeson terrain with “The Oath,” wherein his Reykjavik physician protagonist will do almost anything — legal or otherwise — to protect his drug-addict daughter from an enabling boyfriend. This assured suspense drama, which sports little of the blackly comedic streak usually associated with its maker, is a solid commercial prospect that could also easily lend itself to remake sales.

Finnur (Kormakur) is a dedicated and talented heart surgeon with an attractive young wife (Margret Bjarnadottir) and very young daughter. But he also has an older child by a prior marriage (that ex-wife now lives in Los Angeles), and Anna (Hera Hilmar) is the bane of his otherwise charmed existence. A perpetual mess, she’s currently dropped out of school, unemployed, still relying on dad to pay the bills, and is “madly in love” with new beau Ottar (Gisli Orn Gardarsson).

Though the latter makes a passable impression when invited to family dinner, Finnur quickly susses that not only is party-overhearty Anna back on illicit substances, but Ottar is most likely her supplier, as well as a local dealer by profession. As she’s over 18, dad’s ability to control his daughter’s activities (let alone commit her to rehab) is severely limited. Nonetheless, his gestures in that direction earn the ire of Ottar, who might be genuinely fond of Anna — but that doesn’t stop him from physically attacking her father in retaliation, or threatening the whole clan when he feels his fiefdom is imperiled.

Once their conflict escalates past the point of any reasonable solution, Finnur begins plotting to forcibly remove this perceived bad influence from Anna’s life — even if that means resorting to abduction, drugging, grievous bodily harm and other things well off the med-school syllabus. Meanwhile, wracking up felony crimes doesn’t excuse him from his surgical duties (which grow problematic when stress results in a botched minor procedure on a child patient), and Ottar’s disappearance brings unwelcome scrutiny from police detective Birna (Gudrun Sesselja Arnardottir).

Though its characters are well-cast and defined, “The Oath” is, like most of Kormakur’s films (including recent English-language features “Everest,” “2 Guns” and “Contraband”), primarily plot-driven, with a growing pile of crises threatening to blow Finnur’s upstanding-citizen cover as everyone searches for missing Ottar. The helmer/co-scenarist, who started out as an actor before stepping behind the camera, dominates proceedings here with a credible performance that is committed rather than showy. Nonetheless, the 50-year-old Colin Farrell lookalike does not neglect to repeatedly show off the impressive physical shape he’s gotten into for this on-screen spotlight.

As with his prior films going back to “101 Reykjavik,” “The Oath” is stylistically straightforward and technically polished. Ottar Gudnason’s widescreen photography makes good use of dramatic Icelandic landscapes, through which cyclist Finnur must frequently, frantically pedal when trying to juggle his dual lives as big-city surgeon and rural cabin captive-keeper.

Popular on Variety

Toronto Film Review: 'The Oath'

Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Special Presentations), Sept. 10, 2016. Running time: 103 MIN. (Original language title: "Eidurinn")

Production: (Iceland) A RVK Studios presentation, in collaboration with Film4, ZDF Television Network, ZDF Enterprises, in association with XYZ Films. (International sales: XYZ, Los Angeles.) Producers: Baltasar Kormakur, Magnus Vidar Sigurdsson. Executive producers: David Kosse, Agnes Johansen, Margrit Stärk, Doris Schrenner.

Crew: Director: Baltasar Kormakur. Screenplay: Olafur Egill Egilsson, Kormakur. Camera (color, widescreen, HD): Ottar Gudnason. Editor: Sigvaldi J. Karason.

With: Baltasar Kormakur, Hera Hilmar, Gisli Orn Gardarsson, Margret Bjarnadottir, Gudrun Sesselja Arnardottir.

More Film

  • Editorial use only. No book cover

    Inside the Spider-Man Split: Finger-Pointing and Executive Endgames

    Spider-Man’s neighborhood has been decidedly unfriendly this week. A private and contentious battle over the onscreen future of the beloved Marvel superhero has spilled out into the public square over the past few days. After making nice for two wildly successful films, Sony Pictures, which holds the licensing rights to the Marvel character, will go [...]

  • Variety Announces 10 Actors to Watch

    Variety Announces 10 Actors to Watch for 2019

    Variety has announced its 10 Actors to Watch for 2019, an honor the publication has bestowed since 1998. Past honorees include many future Oscar winners and nominees, such as Mahershala Ali, Timothée Chalamet, Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Brie Larson, Lupita Nyong’o and Melissa Leo. This year’s honorees will be feted in the Oct. 27 issue of [...]

  • August Maturo

    Film News Roundup: August Maturo to Star in Horror Movie 'Slapface'

    In today’s film news roundup, August Maturo gets a starring role and “Death of Me” and “Fatale” find homes. CASTING “Girl Meets World” star August Maturo has been cast as the lead character in the upcoming indie horror feature, “Slapface.” Maturo will play a boy who deals with the loss of his mother by creating [...]

  • Dan Trachtenberg

    Tom Holland's 'Uncharted' Movie Loses Director

    Dan Trachtenberg has exited the director’s chair for Sony’s “Uncharted” movie starring Tom Holland, with the studio taking meetings with top filmmakers and production starting early next year. The studio confirmed Trachtenberg’s departure Thursday. It also said Sony-based PlayStation Productions — headed by Asad Qizilbash and Carter Swan — had come on to produce alongside [...]

  • Participant Taps Anikah McLaren, Robert Kessel

    Participant Taps Anikah McLaren, Robert Kessel to Head Film Department

    Participant Media has named industry veterans Anikah McLaren and Robert Kessel as co-heads of the company’s film department with the titles of executive vice president. Both executives will report together to Participant CEO David Linde, who made the announcement Thursday. McLaren joins Participant having most recently served as a production executive for Fox Searchlight Pictures. [...]

  • 'The Son' Review: Bosnian Family Drama

    Sarajevo Film Review: 'The Son'

    It is a mixed blessing to be born in the aftermath of a war. On the one hand, you never have to experience the terror and suffering your parents did; on the other, you grow up with your own personal crises forever made to feel smaller by comparison. That, at least, is the frustration driving [...]

  • Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez star

    Box Office: Jennifer Lopez 'Hustlers' Heading for $25 Million Launch

    STX Entertainment’s “Hustlers,” a comedic thriller about strip-club employees seeking revenge, is expected to earn $25 million when it opens on Sept. 13, according to early tracking. The movie — starring Jennifer Lopez, Constance Wu, Lili Reinhart, Keke Palmer, Cardi B and Lizzo — will debut alongside Warner Bros.’ “The Goldfinch.” The drama, based on [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content