“The Oath” puts an Icelandic twist on the “daddy’s little girl” genre of thrillers — see also “Fear” and “Taken” — where a father will do anything to protect his endangered daughter from a troubled male figure.
Baltasar Kormakur directs himself in this story of Finnur, a father pushed to his limits by his daughter’s sketchy boyfriend. In this case, daughter dearest (Hera Hilmar) is not only shacked up with a drug-dealing loser (Gisli Orn Garoarsson) but hooked on drugs herself. She’s unreliable and spinning out of control — she sleeps in and is late to her grandfather’s funeral — and daddy is forced to take matters into his own hands.
It helps that Finnur, a surgeon by trade, is a buff triathlete, and Kormakur has no problem putting his own physique front and center on camera. But beyond that, there’s a relatability to his character that immediately puts viewers on his side. Who wouldn’t step in and try to save their daughter from a criminal lowlife, even if she’s not exactly asking for any help?
“The Oath” then pushes past behavioral norms and goes into straight-up fantasy territory as Finnur gets a hold of the boyfriend and begins acting out a severe revenge plot. How far would you go? Probably — hopefully — not as far as Finnur, but Kormakur lets things unfold at a natural pace that only feels partially gratuitous.
Kormakur sets an icy tone from the beginning and sticks to it as his tense morality tale plays out. Matters are complicated and no one is free from blame, least of all Finnur himself, which he must face. That’s what makes “The Oath” compelling storytelling, and it winds up coming off as cold and unforgiving as its wintery Reykjavik setting.
Not rated: Language, violence
Running time: 102 minutes