Review Roundup: OSLO Film Adaptation on HBO Max - What Did the Critics Think?

The film is adapted from the Tony Award-winning play of the same name.

By: May. 30, 2021
Review Roundup: OSLO Film Adaptation on HBO Max - What Did the Critics Think?

The film adaptation of J.T. Rogers' Tony Award-winning play Oslo, starring Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott, has officially premiered on HBO Max.

Adapted from the Tony Award-winning play of the same name, the film is based on a true story of negotiations between implacable enemies - the secret back-channel talks, unlikely friendships and quiet heroics of a small but committed group of Israelis, Palestinians and one Norwegian couple that led to the 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.

Let's see what the critics are saying...

Roxana Hadadi, AV Club: It's not easy to generate interest from people arguing at a conference table, but Tony Award-winning theater director Bartlett Sher, making his film debut, incorporates a few visual flourishes. Once the talks reach a higher level and Israel sends in Uri Savir (Jeff Wilbusch), director general of the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sher's camera tracks Savir as he paces around the table, capturing this locked room's claustrophobic tension. Also effective is the film's lighting, which is sometimes so overblown that it smears characters' faces and allows us only to hear their voices, a purposefully theatrical element to underscore the importance of what is being said, rather than who is saying it. Those moments punctuate what is otherwise a generic tableau that doesn't take full advantage of the fact that Oslo has jumped from stage to screen.

Razmig Bedirian, National News: Oslo's strongest aspect is its cast. Luther star Ruth Wilson and Sherlock actor Andrew Scott give arresting performances as Mona Juul and Terje Rod-Larsen, the Norwegian diplomats who initiated the talks between the PLO and Israel. Gaza Mon Amour actor Salim Dau offers a layered and enduring portrayal of Ahmed Qurie, finance minister of the PLO. Doval'e Glickman takes over the role of one of the accords' main architects, Professor Yair Hirschfeld, with charm. Unorthodox star Jeff Wilbusch, too, is incredible in his role as Israeli negotiator Uri Sarvir and Rambo III actor Sasson Gabay's depiction of Shimon Perez is unforgettable.

Bob Strauss, Datebook: "Oslo" ultimately acknowledges that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is anything but resolved, and shows why even this first, limited step toward settling it was so immensely difficult. Whether we're in the mood to find it entertaining right now remains in dispute.

David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: Executive produced by Marc Platt and Steven Spielberg, this is a polished operation with a strong ensemble led by Ruth Wilson and Andrew Scott as Mona Juul and Terje Rød-Larsen, the married Norwegian diplomats who used their connections at the Foreign Ministry and in the Middle East to bring both sides to the negotiating table on neutral ground. (Those roles were played on stage by Jennifer Ehle and Jefferson Mays.)

Brian Lowry, CNN: HBO has positioned "Oslo" to premiere a few days before this year's Emmy-eligibility deadline, ensuring the project -- whose producers include Steven Spielberg -- will be fresh in the minds of voters. Directed by Bartlett Sher and adapted by the play's author J.T. Rogers, "Oslo" serves as a haunting portrayal of what was, and a sobering reflection on conditions as they currently exist.

Peter Debruge, Variety: Where Rogers' three-hour stage play was dense with overlapping dialogue and deep-end policy talk, the movie version (which counts Marc Platt and Steven Spielberg among its producers) pares that back to just under two hours. If anything, the feature errs on the side of trying not to look theatrical, a criticism that has been so hammered into films based on plays that too many overcorrect in the opposite direction. Here, director Bartlett Sher tries various tricks - including the use of camera filters, outdoor walk-and-talk scenes and a PTSD-style flashback that recurs throughout - to make things feel more cinematic.

Matt Roush, TV Insider: High drama on an international stage, this film version of the Tony-winning play is more timely than ever in the wake of the recent clashes in Israel and Gaza, as Oslo depicts the secret negotiations that led to the historic 1993 Oslo Peace Accords.