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Review: The Oath

Darin Scott's cinematic endeavor, "The Oath," set to debut in select theaters this week, is a self-described passion project and if the film has one thing going for it, it is an earnest passion for this story. The film, directed and written by Scott himself, features a cast including Billy Zane, Eugene Brave Rock, Nora Dale, and Karina Lombard. The story recounts the tale of Moroni, a Nephite prophet in the Mormon/Latter Day Saints tradition. Mileage will vary with a religious film like this but despite personal beliefs, the film consistently struggles to tell a compelling narrative competently.

Moroni, portrayed by Scott, leads a solitary life on the run from the Lamanites, the Nephites' adversaries while working to preserve his people's history. Despite promising elements of historical action and religious lore, the film is unable to provide essential context to this story unless you already have an understanding of Mormon history. The film preaches to its choir but other viewers will be left without a clear understanding of characters and events. The narrative lacks coherence, presenting disjointed scenes without sufficient explanation, leaving the audience struggling to grasp the unfolding story.

The issue at heart here is the film's failure to effectively communicate key story beats, necessitating external research to comprehend its context. The central theme of Moroni's conversion of Bathsheba and their ensuing love story lacks authenticity, exacerbated by the film's inability to visually convey the passage of time. I was often lost in terms of how much time had passed and why these two groups of people were at war with one another. There is simply too much-inherited knowledge assumed by Scott to let non-believer audiences in.

Despite director Darin Scott's assertion of the film being a labor of love developed over 13 years, the film often feels like a showcase for Scott himself. Plenty of shots highlight his physique. His character is the only one given significant development. This comes into play, especially in the film's depiction of Indigenous people. Scott is white and the majority of the antagonists, aside from Billy Zane, are of color. The film isn't subtle about this difference, going far past a white-savior mentality into something low-key racist. It is an infuriatingly terrible quality to the film I could not shake. While it is clear Scott deeply cares about the film he has made, he fails to let audiences in.



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