“The Oath” Is A Wonderful Thriller from Iceland

Genre: Thriller
Director: Baltasar Kormakur
110 minutes
Actors: Baltasar Kormakur (Finner), Hera Hilmer (Anna), and Gisli Orn Gardarsson (Ottar)
Review: Connie Wilson, www.WeeklyWilson.com

This film from Iceland (with English subtitles) was my favorite drama from the 52nd Chicago International Film Festival. Directed by Baltasar Kormakur, who also directed the Hollywood films “Everest”, ‘Contraband” and “2 Guns,” this action-packed story of a successful heart surgeon battling to save his daughter from drug addiction and the influence of a sleazy drug dealer boyfriend was well-paced, well-written, shot well (cinematography by Ottar Gudnason) and shows why “Variety” pegged him as an up-and-comer.

THE GOOD

I became aware of the wonderful films coming out of Iceland at a previous film festival while watching one about the explosion of the crystal meth industry in the country. Born in Rekjavik (Iceland) Variety selected Baltasar Kormakur, (son of Baltasar Samper, a famous Icelandic artist) as one of the “10 Directors to Watch,” along with Alejandro González Iñárritu, Lukas Moodysson, Christopher Nolan and other newcomers.

Korrakur not only wrote, directed, and produced this film, he plays the lead role of a skilled heart surgeon (Finnur) who has a wife and two daughters in Iceland. Finnur is not unique in having to deal with the effect of a headstrong older daughter (Anna, played by Hera Hilmer) who is past the age of 18 and, therefore, can make decisions that are detrimental to her health and well-being, which Anna does repeatedly.

Finnur—who has so much success in the operating room saving people’s lives—thinks through several logical ways of getting Ottar (Gisli Orn Gardarsson), the bad boyfriend, out of Anna’s life forever. He tries the obvious: paying him off. He tries the less obvious (short of murder), and that is when things go south.

Even when Finnur seems to have been successful in removing the threat that Ottar posed to Anna, you wonder if he has lost his daughter forever. And the legal implications of the route Finnur ultimately chooses (or the route that chooses him) are left up-in-the-air, which gives the film a nice ambiguity of ending.

THE BAD

I was on the edge of my seat for this one, and I shall look for this director’s work in the future. Since he speaks Icelandic, English, Spanish and Danish and has already directed Hollywood films starring Denzel Washington and Mark Wahlberg (among others), I am hoping for films that reach beyond just the 300,000 person audience in Iceland. His work certainly deserves a wider audience.

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About Connie Wilson

Connie (Corcoran) Wilson (www.ConnieCWilson.com ) was the Quad City Times film and book critic for 15 years and has continued reviewing film uninterruptedly since 1970. She also publishes books (31 at last count) in a variety of genres (www.quadcitieslearning.com), has taught writing or literature classes at 6 Iowa/Illinois colleges or universities as adjunct faculty, was Yahoo's Content Producer of the Year 2008 for Politics, is the author of It Came from the 70s: From The Godfather to Apocalypse Now, and writes on a variety of topics at her own blog, www.WeeklyWilson.com.