The Oath

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Reviews Counted: 21

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Average Rating: 3.7/5

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Movie Info

"The Oath" tells the story of two men whose encounter in 1996 set them on a course of events that led them to Afghanistan, Osama bin Laden, 9/11, Guantanamo, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Critic Reviews for The Oath

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (10)

  • 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.

    Sep 21, 2010 | Full Review…
  • The essential information in The Oath could have been boiled down to 30 minutes, but the good parts are indeed good.

    Jun 18, 2010 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • 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 Guantánamo are juxtaposed with the lively Yemeni street scenes.

    Jun 18, 2010 | Rating: 3.5/4
  • 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.

    Jun 10, 2010 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • 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.

    May 20, 2010 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Poitras's movie digs deep; it hints at the violently conflicting drives that an intelligent human being may be liable to.

    May 10, 2010 | Full Review…

    David Denby

    New Yorker
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Oath


While definitely a very good and thought provoking documentary, I don't think it's ever great. It definitely does a great job at making Abu Jandal, bodyguard of Bin Laden, into a complex individual with complex emotions. I don't want to say they humanize him or make you empathize with his past, but the movie doesn't make him into a villain either. They present his story without taking sides or being preachy. I think the real meat of the story comes with Salim's trial and how he's in the situation that he is in (with the trial, despite having won a historic trial against the Supreme Court and Congress creating a new law after this case to SPECIFICALLY create new fresh charges against him). That's definitely the most striking thing about the movie, the U.S Congress passing a new law that would make sure this guy has a trial, however fair (or constitutional) or not. It's even more striking that this law was passed for someone who was just Bin Laden's driver (and not involved in any terrorist activities, allegedly) when there are much bigger fish to fry including Abu Jandal. Again it's really a very good documentary film, but I don't know what it was missing that only made this a really good, and not a great, movie.

Jesse Ortega
Jesse Ortega

Super Reviewer

"The Oath" is a fascinating documentary about Abu Jandal, Osama bin Laden's former bodyguard, now living in Yemen as a cab driver with his ten year old son, Habib. In 1995, at the age of 19, he joins the jihad in Bosnia and a couple of years later, falls in with bin Laden in Afghanistan who is like a father figure to the impressionable young men and sounds like he may have had some sort of cult of personality going. In the present day, Abu Jandal talks to young men about the old days. His talking started with his being politely interrogated by the FBI while he was in jail in Yemen in 2001(he spent three years in jail as part of a roundup of jihadists after the USS Cole attack and was released on condition that he behave himself) and continues as he has also been interviewed by 60 Minutes and Al Arabiya. While truthful about bin Laden in general, I do not know how much to trust about what he says about himself and is contradictory on the subject of 9/11 and defining where a battlefield is in a jihad. While in bin Laden's camp, he considered himself the Emir of Hospitality and met all 19 hijackers. Today, there are younger jihadists who have made threats against Abu Jandal's life for his changing attitudes. One regret that gnaws at Abu Jandal is his recruitment of Salim Hamdan(as in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld) to the cause and is his brother in law.(bin Laden ordered the two men to marry sisters and so they did.) Hamdan, a driver, was apprehended in Pakistan in 2001 and has been imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay since then awaiting trail. After his victory at the Supreme Court, the charge of giving material comfort to terrorists was created.(I'm not a lawyer but it sounds fishy.) The charges sound so bogus, that even his military lawyer thinks he is innocent. Especially ridiculous is the Nuremburg comparison by the prosecution because I am sure after World War II, they were really gung ho to prosecute the drivers for war crimes.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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