The Oath

Pasatiempo - - CONTENTS - (The Deep, Ever­est), The Oath The Oath The Oath The Oath Grad­u­a­tion Grad­u­a­tion

Long be­fore he be­gan di­rect­ing films Ice­land’s Bal­tasar Kor­mákur en­joyed a suc­cess­ful ca­reer as an ac­tor. finds Kor­mákur merg­ing his tan­dem in­ter­ests, di­rect­ing a pic­ture in which he also plays the lead­ing role for the first time. He seals his rep­u­ta­tion as a tour-de-force film­maker by also serv­ing as the pro­ducer and co-writer of the film.

Handling so many as­sign­ments can lead to com­pro­mises and short­falls, but Kor­mákur seems to thrive on the stress. He’s di­aled in here, creating a taut and en­er­getic thriller that builds mo­men­tum surely and swiftly, echo­ing the way its hero, heart sur­geon Fin­nur (Kor­mákur), races his bi­cy­cle across the moun­tain­ous snow-draped roads of Ice­land.

places Fin­nur at a cross­roads, ex­em­pli­fied in the Hip­po­cratic oath, “Above all, I must not play God.” His fa­ther has just died, and his old­est daugh­ter Anna (Hera Hilmer) is show­ing signs of fall­ing apart. Fin­nur sur­mises she’s dal­ly­ing a bit too much with drugs. His fears are ag­gra­vated when he meets her new boyfriend, a shady char­ac­ter named ”ttar (Gísli Örn Garðars­son), who sells stolen cars and dou­bles as a drug dealer. ”ttar isn’t at all dis­creet, taunt­ing Fin­nur as a “geezer” and warn­ing him not to in­ter­fere in Anna’s life.

You don’t have to be a rocket sci­en­tist to see where this is head­ing. Fin­nur might be a re­served in­tel­lec­tual, highly re­spected in his com­mu­nity, but the temp­ta­tion to play God is too great for him to re­sist. In no time, he’s bat­tling ”ttar tooth and nail, fight­ing hard — and dirty — in ways that not only might de­stroy ”ttar, but also for­ever sink Fin­nur. Once he has un­leashed his in­ner Vik­ing, how’s he ever go­ing to re­gain his emo­tional clar­ity and con­trol? How far will he go to hide his war, to di­vert the po­lice and keep Anna un­aware of his in­tru­sion?

Kor­mákur’s new work could le­git­i­mately be de­scribed as Nordic noir, with its sharply turned plot twists set against stun­ning Icelandic back­drops. One can pic­ture Chuck Nor­ris or Bruce Wil­lis play­ing Fin­nur, and one of them will prob­a­bly do so if Hol­ly­wood ever buys the rights to re­make this film. Kor­mákur is cer­tainly more self-con­tained than his Amer­i­can coun­ter­parts, but not so dis­tant or so book­ish as to be un­rec­og­niz­able.

The film has its flaws. We’re in­tro­duced to Fin­nur’s new wife, but she barely reg­is­ters and is prac­ti­cally a cipher. Same goes for ”ttar’s mother, when she turns up dis­tressed, not sure where her son has dis­ap­peared to. But Kor­mákur makes strong use of Ot­tar Guð­na­son’s widescreen photography. There’s also a riv­et­ing side dilemma, as the pre­oc­cu­pied Fin­nur botches a surgery on a young boy and has to in­dulge in some real boot­strap­ping on the op­er­at­ing ta­ble to save the kid’s life.

brings to mind the re­cent Ro­ma­nian film by Cristian Mungiu. It, too, con­cerns a threat­ened re­la­tion­ship be­tween a fa­ther and a daugh­ter — in both cases, the fa­ther be­ing a physi­cian, and the daugh­ter be­ing led astray by a low-life boyfriend. is the deeper ex­er­cise and won Mungiu a best direc­tor award at the 2016 Cannes Film Fes­ti­val. But is hardly a throw­away. It comes rec­om­mended, es­pe­cially if you’re a fan of strong ac­tion served with a shim­mery chill. — Jon Bow­man

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