On July 22, 2011, Norway suffered its worst-ever terror attack. The movie 22 July, in select theaters and on Netflix, shows a poignant, dramatic reenactment of the horrors but also the hope surrounding the incidents.
22 July details the fatal attack in which a far-right neo-Nazi killed eight people with a car bomb outside of government headquarters and then massacred those on an island holding an annual summer camp for Labor Party youths, killing 69 people and injuring hundreds more. The movie cuts between several characters—including the defense lawyer of the shooter; the prime minister of Norway; and a teenage survivor, who was shot fives times. The film follows the event from the preparations of the terrorist and the actual attack, all the way to his trial and consequent incarceration.
Interestingly, 22 July has very little dialogue. Many scenes are accompanied by only background noises, such as machinery beeping in hospitals or sounds of the rushing wind in the air. The movie uses character expression and context to deliver much of the plot, which helps the audience become even more immersed and feel more strongly for the characters.
Vilijar Hansen (Jonas Strand Gravli), the teenage survivor who very nearly died from the attack, is exceptionally well acted and portrayed. His character is sympathetic and believable, and his struggle to find hope in despair relatable and heart-wrenching. Gravli truly becomes the character, and the audience can see not only the physical changes that the attack has on him, but the mental anguish and confusion he is suffering. In the end, his decision to face his assailant and his speech at the trial is profound and powerful—a beacon of hope in the face of tragedy that acts as the backbone of the movie.
Truly horrifying, however, is the portrayal of the terrorist—Anders Behring Breivik (Anders Danielsen Lie). Cold and showing no remorse for his actions, Lie portrays a murderer who truly believes that his attack is a triumph that will galvanize millions to take up arms, as he did, and begin a war on multiculturalism. The movie shows Breivik completely certain in himself, choosing to plead sane despite having a paranoid schizophrenic diagnosis from psychiatrists that would prevent him going to prison. Insisting on speaking at his trial, Breivik wants the sensationalism and tries to turn the trial into a spectacle so he can spread his message of hatred.
The film has a dark, brooding tone from the very beginning. Shot in very cold colors, even initial scenes of the teenagers bonding and having fun at the camp have a foreboding feeling. Although the colors and mood are very fitting for the story, this homogeneity becomes a little one-note and hard to get through for two and a half hours. In addition, the film has a very slow pace, with scenes that feel like they are dragged out for too long. Some establishing shots are also too long, and a more concise edit would have helped retain attention and intensity.
22 July is a hard movie to watch. Moments of violence, especially toward youths who moments ago were so hopeful and vibrant, leave them and the audience in horror and pain. The true focus of the film, however, is on the aftermath of the attack, where the survivors and the nation have to rebuild and heal from not only the attack, but also the rhetoric and the ideas that caused it. Especially in the current political climate, where extremism has become more mainstream than in 2011, this film is an important watch to show the devastating consequences of extremist beliefs and how real terrorism can exist on all sides of the political spectrum.
Featured Image by Netflix