The Oath Reviews
[Director Laura Poitras] goes to great lengths to inject surprise into the narrative, strategically withholding information, including the double and triple meanings of her title.
A documentary that at its start purports to be the tale of two terrorists, the film keeps deepening and widening until it becomes a subtle, stubborn moral drama about users and the used.
Poitras has opened up a fascinating window into the minds of the people who hate us, apparently not so much for our freedom as for our arrogance, our belief that we are the center of the universe.
Just how deep inside Jandal's world Poitras goes is all the more striking given the inherent cultural barriers and danger she faced as a female filmmaker shooting a former Al Qaeda operative in Yemen.
... a film of many individual moments which offers up a selection of contradictory and conflicting information (much of it from the lips of Abu Jandal) and requires the viewer to come up with their own version of the truth.
In the end, what I took away from "The Oath" was an affirmation of the importance of the rule of law, that we should judge people by their crimes. The human heart is too complex and contradictory to be easily categorized as "good" or "evil."
The Oath makes spare use of images to convey a great deal. Al-Bahri's smiling child is surrounded by lethal weapons that are little more than toys to him. The color-drained skies of Guantanamo are juxtaposed with the lively Yemeni street scenes.
Poitras makes salient political points about the efficacy and morality of some of the methods the United States used in what used to be called the global war on terror, but her film is just as effective as a portrait of two unknowable, individual souls...