Thirteen years in the making, The Oath is the writing/directing feature debut of Actor Darin Scott (Halloweentown High 2004, 127 Hours 2010). Having himself played Jesus in a number of films, Scott is no stranger to religious inspired filmmaking. So, it is no great surprise that his debut is based on scriptures from The Book of Mormon as well as his 2018 short film Reign of Judges: Title of Liberty.
Hitting over 650 theaters across the USA on Friday, December 8, 2023, before emerging on digital and VOD March 26, 2024, The Oath is set in North America in 400 A.D. as the long running war between the Nephites and Lamanites is coming to its conclusion. The story follows Moroni (Scott), who is the last Nephite standing between the Lamanites and the total destruction of his people. Constantly hunted by the nefarious and tyrannical Lamanite King Aaron (Billy Zane: Orlando 1992, Titanic 1997), Moroni lives in the forest in exile and makes an oath to preserve the history of his people in a book made of golden pages.
One day, Moroni comes across a woman in the forest. Clinging to life, the woman named Bathsheba (Nora Dale) is nursed back to health by Moroni and a tentative bond develops between them. However, Bathsheba is the abused mistress of King Aaron and soon the King is intent on hunting both of them down. To protect all he holds dear, torn Moroni is forced to become the warrior he once was but vowed to cast aside. It is clear from the outset that The Oath was a passion project for Scott. You do not spend thirteen years working on a project if you do not have total belief in it, and Scott should certainly be recognized for his dedication to The Oath. Unfortunately, passion for a project does not necessarily translate into a positive experience for the audience and The Oath is beset with a number of issues.
In order to appeal to a wide audience, a faith-based film such as this should assume that there may be a number of audience members who are unfamiliar with the faith in question. However, The Oath makes no such allowances, with little fully explained, and often it is hard to understand what exactly is going on. Elements of the screenplay further exacerbate this difficulty, in particular with the dialogue switching between multiple languages with no rhyme or reason as to why. The subtitles often blend into the screen which makes them difficult to read and the score occasionally drowns out certain lines. All these inconsistencies add up to mean that The Oath is not a particularly easy watch.
Visually it looks fine, but The Oath is imbued with a seriousness so severe that it threatens to become almost parodical. Characters stare off into the distance, seemingly gazing at nothing and the score swells up at every opportunity. Whilst Scott shows that he has the enthusiasm and commitment to be a promising director, The Oath may be a hard sell for anyone but the most zealous of his fans. For these reasons, Cryptic Rock gives The Oath 1 out of 5 stars.