22 July

22 JULY  was directed & written by Paul Greengrass, based on the 2013 book “One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway—and Its Aftermath”, by Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad. Greengrass, besides piloting the action frenzy of several ‘Bourne‘ movies, has proven gifted at turning intense real-life events into strong feature films: Bloody Sunday, United 93 and Captain Phillips. In this gripping, often infuriating 2018 docudrama, he takes on the horrible 2011 massacre that traumatized Norway, and the subsequent trial of its right-wing perpetrator.

Norway, July 22, 2011. After detonating a ton of home-made explosives at government headquarters in Oslo, Anders Behring Breivik (Anders Danielsen Lie), disguised as a policeman takes a ferry to the nearby island of Utøya. With automatic weapons, he conducts a methodical slaughter of teenagers at a summer camp that was organized by the country’s ruling Labor Party. Satisfied with his handiwork, Breivik willingly surrenders, seeking to stage-manage his subsequent televised trial in order to espouse and justify his Nazi-like ideology.

After the necessarily disturbing but thankfully not exploitative segment showing the attack, Greengrass’ script threads and directorial focus divides itself into several paths that ultimately converge. One is covering the trial itself and Breivik’s attitude, another is the legal and personal challenges facing his lawyer, Geir Lippestad (played by Jon Øigarden). Then the painful physical and emotional recovery of one of Breivik’s surviving victims, Viljar Hanssen (Jonas Strand Gravli), is traced, leading to Hanssen’s eventual testimony at the trial.  

Just a few of the 143 minutes of running time are devoted to showing the bombing and shooting rampage, enough to get the point across and register impact: more would be unendurable–Breivik shot innocent, defenseless people for 90 minutes before his capture. Anders Danielsen Lie gives a chilling portrait of the fascist lunatic, a self-styled modern day incarnation of the Knights Templar.  Jonas Strand Gravli is excellent as the grievously injured Viljar Hanssen, who summoned his inner steel to face Breivik in court. Beyond being a powerful dramatic document of the crime, the movie leaves you with the cold reality that rationalizing false equivalence and appeasing the ilk of Breivik guarantees their virus of hate will spread: shut them up, lock them away, or put them down.

Shot in Norway and Iceland, the $20,000,000 production shared attention with Utøya: July 22, which dramatized the event with fictional characters. At least seven documentaries have been made on the subject. Greengrass’ version had a limited theatrical release which earned $3,739,000, and was simultaneously made available on Netflix.

With Maria Bock, Ulrikke Hansen Døvigen, Seda Witt, Ola G. Furuseth (as Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg).

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