Movie Review: ‘The Oath’

by | Dec 8, 2023 | Featured, Movie Reviews, Movies | 0 comments

Review by James Lindorf

Writer, director, producer, and star Darin Scott is no stranger to faith-based movies. He has played Jesus no less than four times, twice in 2015 alone. Entertainment featuring the Mormon religion feels more infamous than well-respected. If asked to name my top three, it would first be “Book of Mormon,” which is a fantastic musical, but it spends 2 hours making fun of the religion. The second would be “Sister Wives,” which has ranged from heartwarming to scandalous, and everything else is tied for third because I couldn’t name another until now. Darin Scott’s “The Oath” brings to life the history that led to the formation of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. “The Oath” is now playing in select theaters, with more locations added daily.

In 400 A.D., the long-running war between the Lamanites and the Nephites reached its final stage. General Moroni (Darin Scott) is the last Nephite standing between the Lamanites and the complete annihilation of their enemy. Knowing that his people will end with him, Moroni makes an oath to preserve the history of his fallen nation. Living in the forest, hunted by the tyrannical Lamanite King Aaron (Billy Zane), desperate to stay alive to complete his promise, Moroni’s life is derailed by an intruder. Will rescuing the King’s abused mistress, Bathsheba (Nora Dale), reawaken his warrior spirit or distract him from his oath to complete the sacred texts? The cast of “The Oath” is filled out by Eugene Brave Rock (Wonder Woman), Karina Lombard (Legends of the Fall), Philip Niu (Black Adam), Aron Stevens, aka wrestling superstar Damien Sandow, and Wasé Chief, making her acting debut.

While watching “The Oath,” you can’t help but notice Darin Scott’s commitment. He is giving a good performance on screen. Still, you can tell from the screenplay, the special effects, and the cinematography that he was passionate about this project and wanted to do everything he could to make it successful. Every element has the feeling of someone pushing as hard as they can and often coming up short. Scott is a talented person, but this feature film was beyond his current capabilities and resulted in an uneven product. The dialogue is perhaps the most offensive. They all speak multiple languages to make the characters feel impressive, but their ability to do so is mixed. Sometimes, they speak perfect English; other times, it is broken, and they bounce between languages for no discernable reason. Then he added the occasional old-timey word to make it feel more authentic to the period. Based on the word selection, the dialogue may not be that bad, and in the end, it may be more of a failure of presentation than a poorly written screenplay.

Another miss was the desire to have special effects without SFX money. The big dreams and little budget resulted in a movie that the visual effects let down at every turn. From the overused reflection effect that makes everything shiny to a piece of paper doing its best Forrest Gump feather impersonation while looking like it was also made in 1994. However, in the world of practical effects and makeup, the movie is a resounding success. One moment near the film’s climax will stick with viewers for a long time because of the believable effect.

I think Scott may have gone to George Lucas’s faster and more intense school of directing. All the actors are having a good time and giving adequate performances. However, too much time is spent with someone looking into the camera or off into the distance, making an overly serious face. Everyone has their moment or moments but Lombard was probably the most guilty of that, and her powerful eye makeup didn’t help. Then there is Billy Zane, beloved for his appearances in everything from “Critters” to “Titanic,” who appears to be having a great time but is unwilling to put in his best effort. Maybe he had the same question I did: why are the Lamanites, who are essentially Native Americans, being led by a Greek man? Perhaps his lack of understanding, like mine, of what place in history these people are supposed to occupy led to confusion, and that’s why he occasionally seems to slip into an Irish accent. If it wasn’t Zane, it could easily slide into cringe territory, but his charisma makes up for many faults, and his performance will always be better than his fake beard. In addition to the good and sometimes befuddling performances, the film excels in cinematography. They made great use of the natural resources around them, and “The Oath” is a wonderful-looking film.

“The Oath” may have flown too close to the sun in hopes of making something magical, and while it may not have been a fatal crash, no one is walking away clean. I admire the attempt and work that went into the production and the efforts of everyone involved. It may have come closer to their goal if it didn’t have the pressing need to impress. It could have been a deeply emotional story about a man of faith being persecuted and pursued but finding love and hope along the way. Instead, it tried to be an epic, offering grand ideas, effects, and shock value, of “Spartacus” and “Gladiator” on an indie budget. “The Oath” shouldn’t be the end of Scott’s directing career, but he owes everyone a promise to do better next time. “The Oath” earns a 2 out of 5.

Rating: PG-13
Genre: Adventure, Action, History, Drama, Romance
Original Language: English
Director: Darin Scott
Producer: Darin Scott, Isen Robbins, Aimee Schoof, Randolf Turrow
Writer: Darin Scott, Michelle Scott
Release Date (Theaters): December 8th, 2023
Runtime: 1h 44m
Distributor: Freestyle Digital Media
Production Co: Great Scott Entertainment, Herculean Pictures