Movie Review – 22 July

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22 July – Devastating, hard to watch, yet impeccably made docudrama recounts the worst terrorist attack in Norway’s history in the summer of 2011. At nearly 2 and a 1/2 hours, the film lags at times, but for the most part, is a compelling portrayal of the tragic events. Director Paul Greengrass (United 93, Captain Phillips, several of the Jason Bourne films, etc.) utilizes his hyper-reality style of film-making to dramatic effect in a film which is essentially divided into three parts. The first third of 22 July depicts the actual bombing of the Norwegian Prime Minister’s office in Oslo and the subsequent attack on the summer camp of the island of Utoya. In total, Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people and injured hundreds more in the name of extreme Right-wing nationalism. The middle third of the film is the weakest, depicting the immediate aftermath of the incident on victim’s families, the defense attorney assigned to Breivik’s case, the government and others involved. The human element is present, but it lacks the immediacy and drama of the previous opening moments of the movie. It’s also a section that we’ve seen done better in films like Stronger (with Jake Gyllenhaal). Fortunately, things pick back up in the final third of the feature which focuses on the trial of Breivik, the fight of victim’s families to keep him from speaking in court, and the push for one victim to testify against him. Overall, 22 July is an excellent, but uneven production that shows the graphic effects of terrorism. The Norway attacks in 2011 have been called that country’s 9/11, but I would say they are more akin to the Oklahoma City bombings by Timothy McVeigh. This is a case of a homegrown terrorist, acting on a delusional political mission, who felt he was fighting in a larger ideological war. Due to the nature of the killer, his sequences are far more intriguing to watch than the stories of the victims, which may not have been the director’s intentions. Still, it is a quality overall effort and director Greengrass continues to make some of the best “based in real life” dramas in cinema. 22 July is available to watch on Netflix and a few select theaters.

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