“22 July” stars Anders Danielsen Lie, Jon Øigarden, Thorbjørn Harr, Jonas Strand Gravli, Ola G. Furuseth, and Ulrikke Hansen Døvigen. Released in theaters and on Netflix on October 10, 2018, the film chronicles the victims of the 2011 Norway attacks and the aftermath of the event.
The film is directed by Paul Greengrass, who also directed films such as “The Bourne Supremacy”, “United 93”, “Green Zone”, and “Captain Phillips”. It is based on the 2013 non-fiction novel, One of Us: The Story of a Massacre in Norway - and Its Aftermath, by Åsne Seierstad. Last year, Netflix made a big name of itself by earning several award nominations for its critically acclaimed drama, “Mudbound”, proving that even a popular streaming service deserve some Oscar love as well. This year, it’s hoping to copy that same success by releasing several more films both in limited theaters and online during awards season, including a fact-based thriller that involves a terrorist attack in Norway. One of the reasons why I became interested in this film is because of Greengrass’ involvement, who delivered some really enticing thrillers in the past, in my opinion, and based on the trailer I saw, it looked like his sense of thrills haven’t lost its touch yet. Since I’m waiting to see the other award-worthy films that are coming out this weekend, I decided to check this one out to see if it can capture the Academy’s attention. While it’s hard for me to tell whether or not it’ll accomplish that goal, I can at least say that the film did extremely well in portraying such a devastating event, both from a thriller aspect and the drama aspect.
The film’s first act showcases the Norway attacks, including the massacre at a summer camp on the island of Utøya in Buskerud. The rest of the film shifts to the dramatic phase as it portrays the aftermath and the victims that are affected by the event, mostly Viljar (Gravli). With the use of a Norwegian cast and crew, Greengrass was able to envision the attacks and the emotions of the victims like we were witnessing these events for the first time. The result is an uneasy, yet thought-provoking, depiction of finding the strength to overcome terror. Even though the drama phase fell a bit short at making me cry, I still find its messages inspiring and realistic thanks to Greengrass’ direction and screenplay. The Norwegian cast did a solid job with their performances, with Gravli and Anders Danielsen Lie being the main highlights as Viljar and Anders Breivik, respectively. I also found the first act to be well-directed and intense from beginning to end. As I mentioned before, it’s like I was watching this event happen for the first time, right before my very eyes. This sequence can be a bit uncomfortable for some people, especially those who actually survived the attacks, but I believe that’s what the director is going for in order to provide a sense of realism instead of just “Hollywood-izing” the event. As for its flaws, all I can say is that the running time (around two hours and 20 minutes) was a bit much. There were a few parts that could’ve been shortened to keep some people’s attention. Other than that, the film’s engaging story kept itself from being bland and forgettable.
Overall, with its talented cast, Greengrass’ direction, and its suitable portrayal of the shocking event, “22 July” rightfully belongs to the collection of films that displays good triumphing over evil. While its running time and first act can be an issue for some people, it is still a film that we need to remind ourselves that we should never give in to fear and desperation. As long as we have the strength to carry ourselves forward and help those who are in need of assistance, terrorism will never win. The film is available to watch on Netflix, so if you’re a fan of Greengrass’ filmography and if you like inspiring dramas, it’s worth checking out.