22 July

22 July

In Theatres: 
Oct 10, 2018
Running Time: 
143 minutes

Hollywood often dramatizes real life events, but director Paul Greengrass is an expert at capturing the raw intensity of a tragedy and then letting it speak for itself on screen. He doesn’t need to sugarcoat anything like with United 93, and he lets the actors live in the moment like at the end of Captain Phillips when Tom Hanks is examined by medical staff for trauma. Greengrass doesn’t hold back with 22 July as he brings his gritty style of realism to the 2011 Norwegian terrorist attacks, putting the audience in the middle of the chaos and its immediate aftermath.


On July 22, 2011 Anders Behring Breivik (Anders Danielsen Lie) set off a homemade explosive device in Oslo, Norway outside the office of the Prime Minister and then drove and took a ferry to the island of Utøya where he opened fire on a summer camp organized by the AUF, the youth division of the ruling Norwegian Labour Party. It was the deadliest attack in Norway since World War II that left 77 dead and over 300 injured. 22 July follows Breivik as he carried out these two deadly attacks as well as the criminal trial that followed, chronicling the survivors as their lives are changed forever.


22 July chills you to the core with its brutal portrayal of the attacks and then tries to put all the broken pieces back together in the aftermath. The first half of the film that deals with the bombing and attack at the summer camp can be difficult to watch. It’s disturbing just how calculated Breivik was in this mass slaughter of innocent people. The way he dressed as a police officer to gain their trust, telling kids to get away from the windows and then kicking down the door just to slaughter them all, creates a pit in your stomach that doesn’t go away. Greengrass doesn’t embellish anything when it comes to the attacks, which makes the scenes feel all the more real. The first hour of the film is a perfect combination of cinematography and storytelling.


Things considerably slow down following the attacks as Breivik is arrested and society tries to make sense of what just happened. Survivor Viljar Hanssen (Jonas Strand Gravli), who was shot multiple times, becomes the main focus of the film as he deals with both the physical and mental struggles following the attack. The physical therapy he requires is arduous, but the PTSD he suffers from as well takes an even bigger toll on him. There’s a lot to unpack with the survivors, including Viljar’s brother Torje (Isak Bakli Aglen) who came out of the attacks physically unharmed thanks to Viljar’s actions. Due to the severity of Viljar’s injuries, Torje is largely ignored by his parents, although Greengrass makes an effort to show that he’s still suffering from mental trauma just like his brother. There’s also Geir Lippestad (Jon Øigarden), who is the lawyer assigned to represent Breivik in court despite vehemently opposing his actions. His life is turned upside down for defending this monster as the rest of the community shuns him.


On its own, the second half of 22 July is a fascinating exploration of characters in the aftermath of a terrorist attack. The problem with the film is that it all follows after such an intense first half so everything feels tame in comparison. It’s emotionally draining and rather than taking the time to digest the horrors of the tragedy, we’re left with almost another hour and half of story.

Despite being a Netflix Original Film, I highly recommend seeing 22 July in theaters if possible. It’s a film that deserves your full attention and should be seen on the big screen rather than in the living room. It’s a difficult film to watch regardless, but one well worth your time.

Matt Rodriguez
Review by Matt Rodriguez
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