Review: 'The Oath' is as messy as our politics

Sharp comedy about the madness of our times loses its way

Adam Graham
Detroit News Film Critic
Ike Berinholtz, center, wrote and directed "The Oath."

Every Thanksgiving, millions of American families come together to watch football, pass the stuffing and hopefully not discuss politics at the dinner table. 

As that's getting harder to do in these deeply politicized times, writer-director Ike Barinholtz has made an in-your-face satire about the current state of our politics, Trump hysteria and the cliff of civility we're all clinging to (and steadily losing our grip on).

For its first hour or so, "The Oath" is a smart, deeply funny mirror to the madness of our times. But it overstays its welcome and its violent, misguided final third drives off the road, flies over a cliff and explodes in the ravine.

But until then, "The Oath" is on a roll. 

In a 2018 that closely resembles our own, the government has set up a loyalty program, known as the Oath, that requires a signature from those who pledge to stand by their country. It's optional, officials say, but it's heavily suggested that citizens sign. 

Chris (Barinholtz) refuses, seeing it as a fascist act, and winces as everyone around him signs it willy-nilly. Things come to a head at Thanksgiving dinner, as the Oath becomes the main topic of discussion, and a pair of government agents show up ready to collect signatures. 

Barinholtz sets fire to every type on the political spectrum, including the sky-is-falling, tied-to-his-newsfeed liberal (whom he plays to self-effacing perfection) and those with their heads buried in the sand. And Billy Magnussen ("Ingrid Goes West") is unnerving as a short-fused hothead; his presence alone makes viewers uncomfortable.

"The Oath" has a sharp tongue and plenty to say about our times. It's just too bad it can't finish the conversation.


'The Oath' 


Rated R for language throughout, violence and some drug use

Running time: 93 minutes