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Film Review

The Oath

Directed by Ike Barinholtz
From: Roadside Attractions, Topic Studios
Released: 10.19.18
Review by Sherin Nicole | October 18, 2018 at 9:00 PM

Basically: It’s horror dressed up as political satire for Halloween (and we’re freaked out).

It’s been a few weeks and I’m still not sure how to review The Oath. Written, directed, and starring Ike Barinholtz, the movie freaked me right on out. Barinholtz is Chris. He’s happily married to Kai (Tiffany Haddish). While the couple prepares for another contentious Thanksgiving holiday with his family, they must also decide whether they’re going to sign an “oath of loyalty” to the President. Things are getting scary under the current American regime. The press secretary snidely insists “you don’t have to sign the oath, we can’t force you to love your country.” There’s a new government agency called the Citizens Protection Unit (CPU) that sounds a lot like Homeland Security but written by Orwell with an assist from Vonnegut and Le Guin (told you I was scared). The CPU rampage across the country, squashing protests against the President with intimidation first and then violence.

Photo: Topic/Roadside Attractions

Chris and his family are already on two ends of the political spectrum. He’s liberal and they’re conservative—his brother is basically a young Piers Morgan who’s dating Tomi Lahren…yeah (Max Greenfield, Meredith Hagner). Chris’ parents (Nora Dunn, Chris Ellis) are the kind of conservatives who inherited their political affiliations and never gave them too much thought. His sister (Carrie Brownstein) is a weed-smoking sign toter just like him but she’s also practical. Everyone is more practical than Chris. Including his wife Kai who just wants to live in peace. All of these stances drive Chris crazy and he becomes increasingly more obsessed with the news and social media as the President’s regime and the Citizens Protection Unit grow more oppressive.

The Oath is a powder keg covered in C4 with a hair-trigger and during the first half you’ll laugh nervously. Not because it isn’t funny, it is, but because this movie is a nightmare about our current socio-political climate. Every conversation is divisive. People keep spouting unsubstantiated “fake facts”. No one will listen. Yet all of this is enjoyable even while you chew your nails off with the fear this movie is somehow our future. Then we take a turn into pre-dystopian and John Cho shows up with Billy Magnussen. They’re agents of the CPU who got a complaint about Chris.

BOOM the fuse is lit.

Photo: Topic/Roadside Attractions

What follows is manic madness. The Oath turns into an escalating comedy of errors where each mistake leads to more bloodshed and an increasingly dim future for the central family. And something amazing happens to that family in the midst of all
that violence and unrest and division. I won’t tell you what but my favorite scene comes in a moment of quiet where two characters eat an apple pie—you just know that pie represents America, and as good as it is there’s something about it that isn’t quite right.

The writing is engaging although off-kilter and the actors are on their game. Still, The Oath is scary and ridiculous and I don’t know how I feel about it.

In the End: The Oath is a horror movie disguised as political satire and you should watch it—if only to get the conversation across the table started.

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