When filmmakers possess a signature style that can be identified across their body of work, they are sometimes referred to as an auteur of cinema. It’s a term that might get banded around too frequently, but one that is often used when discussing Icelandic visionary Baltasar Kormákur. His latest feature is crime thriller The Oath, a personal project which he amazingly produces, directs, co-writes and stars in. The story follows family man heart surgeon Finnur (Kormákur) who tries to rescue his daughter Anna (Hera Hilmar) from her thuggish boyfriend Óttar (Gísli Örn Garðarsson) when she becomes entangled in his dangerous, criminal lifestyle.
The wavering moral compass of the protagonist serves as a guide to the narrative as he resorts to desperate measures which sees his life spiral out of control. Everyday sequences are consistently implemented where we see Finnur swimming and cycling to keep fit in his spare time as well as performing surgery in his professional position. This helps to create contrast between his respectable persona and his increasingly questionable decision-making, conjuring up Walter White-esque parallels as his intelligence informs his drastic actions.
As well as showing off his writing and directing skills, Kormákur impresses with a tremendous central performance that can transform from nuanced to volatile in an instant. The turning cogs of his plotting and panicking can be witnessed through facial expressions alone, and as well as his fascinating personal character arc, he also enjoys a tender father-and-daughter dynamic with Anna, who is portrayed with an authentic combination of teenage rebellion and vulnerability by Hilmar.
Well suited to the chilly backdrop it unfolds against, The Oath is carefully crafted and smartly executed by Baltasar Kormákur, who displays his palpable technical know-how in a film that has a father’s warmth somewhere deep down in its icy cold heart.