The government is requiring all citizens to sign a pledge of loyalty to the President known as the Patriot’s Oath. Those who refuse to sign the Oath are visited by members of the Citizen Protection Unit, an unofficial arm of the government working to coerce hesitant citizens to sign the pledge. Though many sign immediately, protests from across the country and turn violent.
Chris (Ike Barinholtz) is one of the hold-outs. Chris obsesses over reports from progressive media outlets. His wife, Kai (Tiffany Haddish), understands and agrees with Chris, but she is more level-headed than her husband. With Thanksgiving, and the deadline to sign the Oath, quickly approaching, Chris and Kai are preparing to host Chris’ parents (Chris Ellis and Norah Dunn), his brother Pat (Jon Barinholtz), Pat’s girlfriend Abbie (Meredith Hagner), his sister Alice (Carrie Brownstein), and her sick husband.
Though they promised not to talk politics with Chris’ conservative family, he can’t resist when a protest turns deadly. Of course, a fight ensues that gets heated on both sides. The next day, Chris is visited by two members of the CPU, Peter (John Cho) and his unhinged partner Mason (Billy Magnussen). When Chris still refuses to sign the oath, the situation takes an abrupt turn for the worse, finding Chris and his entire family in a dire situation.
Written, directed and starring Ike Barinholtz, The Oath is an intense satire on the environment we live in.
Ike Barinholtz’s Chris represents the extreme left, constantly following the news from his preferred outlets. It is a caricature and a little over the top, but it does represent a portion of the population. Tiffany Haddish is, surprisingly, the more reserved of the two. She gets her husband’s concern but isn’t as consumed by it as he is. Her main priority is their daughter. I would have expected her to be a little more outrageous, but she sells it well. Chris and his brother Pat have good chemistry as brothers. It helps that his brother is the film is played by Ike’s real brother Jon. Jon and his girlfriend, played by Meredith Hagner – whose name Chris can never remember, represent the extreme right. They also rely on their own favorite news sources to tell them the truth. Both Jon and Hagner are relatively faithful to the stereotype. Add in their parents, Chris Ellis and Nora Dunn, who are more middle of the road and prefer to keep politics out of the family, and you have a recipe for disaster. John Cho and billy Magnussen are the good cop/bad cop – though they’re not cops. Billy Magnussen’s character is completely off the deep end who sets up the second half of the film. Cho is a little wasted in the role, but Magnussen more than makes up for it.
The first half of the film is pretty realistic and what I imagine many family Thanksgivings will be like this year. It starts off well enough, but once the opinions start flying, things often don’t end well. The second half is a completely different movie. Things turn chaotic quickly, with the stakes rising with every passing minute. It keeps you guessing just how far these people will go.
While not a great film, The Oath is definitely entertaining. It portrays the heightened sensitivities of both sides and the arguments many will have. It takes the sentiments of Idiocracy and cranks it up a few notches. While it is one you could wait to rent, given where we are as a country, I would say to see it in the theater just for the timeliness.