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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Rob Reviews "22 July"

I was not aware of the events of July 22nd, 2011 as it pertains to the country of Norway. It was on this day that the country would fall victim to its worst terrorist attack in its history, as Anders Behring Breivik would not only set off a bomb in a van parked by the Parliament building, but would then go to a summer camp island heavily armed and kill a bunch of its campers. The dead and injured combined would total almost three hundred, and it would change policy in the nation forever. Writer/director Paul Greengrass, responsible for “United 93” and “Captain Phillips,” has taken Asne Seierstad’s novel of that and the days and months that followed in “One of Us” and has made “22 July”.

The story from that fateful day through the trial and conviction of Breivik (Anders Danielsen Lie) is told from three different perspectives: Breivik himself and his lawyer Geir Lippestad (Jon Oigarden), the family of victims Vijar (Jonas Strand Gravli) and Torje (Isak Bakli Aglen), and briefly the government themselves, headed by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg (Ola G. Furuseth). The intensity is turned up to maximum from beginning to end, whether it is the day itself unfolding, the struggle by Lippestad to do his job properly as he tries to sort everything out for a client he does not morally want to defend but legally is obligated to, Vijar’s journey to the abyss and back, and Stoltenberg’s discoveries about flaws in his own administration that may or may not have been able to prevent the tragedies that befell their people.

Lie alone is worth the time to watch “22 July”. I imagine it would be difficult for him to get Breivik out of his head at the end of each day, given his commitment to the role at hand. This portrayal shows Breivik as cold, calculating, and even perhaps a victim of the hype in his own head as he tries to manipulate the system with a level of bravado that only he seems to believe in. Gravli also shines here as his story unfolds from surviving a nightmare to recovery and eventually facing the evil that put him where he is while just wanting to be a young man starting his journey to make a mark in this world in a family that has their own political connections on a local level vs. a national level. The rest of the cast works well around them, but this is truly the story of the two of them. Personally, I would like to have seen more of Stoltenberg’s story as things progressed, but at the better part of two and a half hours, that may be pushing into the “too long” territory.

To solve that problem, I think this could have been broken into a three to five part miniseries to help educate a worldwide audience to what happened in that section of the world. Given that this is a Netflix production, this does not seem to be too heavy of a lift outside of the possibility of the attempt to get “22 July” in for any award consideration for film. Regardless, this is an impressive film that I highly recommend with the understanding that this is not for the entire family due to the level of intensity and graphic violence. Take some time to put this in your queue to watch as soon as you can!

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