JULY 22 – Review by Diane Carson

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July 22 honors Norway’s strength and heart. Writer/director Paul Greengrass has demonstrated his talent for boldly dramatizing sensitive subjects: United 93 on the 9/11 hijacked plane that crashed in Pennsylvania after courageous passengers wrenched control from the terrorists; Captain Phillips on the 2009 Somali pirates’ seizure of an American cargo ship; and Bloody Sunday on the 1972 British troops’ massacre of Irish civil rights protesters.

Now in July 22 he takes on the worst terrorist attack in Norway’s history, leaving seventy-seven people dead and dozens injured. On that date in 2011 Anders Behring Breivik loaded a van with 2,000 pounds of explosives, parked it in central Oslo outside the Ministry of Justice and the prime minister’s headquarters. With that devastating explosion a diversion, Breivik headed to commandeer a ferry to Utoya Island where dozens of teenagers attend a Labor Party Camp. There he gunned down sixty-nine of the individuals he murdered.

July 22 begins crosscutting between Breivik preparing for and moving to his hideous rampage with the group gathering on Utoya. The barbaric, dispassionate slaughter conveys a fittingly disturbing impact. Several plotlines follow: families frantically searching for their children, the capture of Breivik and subsequent trial, the struggle of survivors fighting for physical and psychological strength, and the political repercussions of the tragedy. Based on Åsne Seierstad’s 2013 book One of Us: The Story of Anders Breivik and the Massacre in Norway, Greengrass presents Breivik and his lawyer dispassionately, no emotional emphasis needed or warranted. For the victims, the focus rests on Viljar, shot multiple times, bullet fragments lodged in his brain.

July 22 gives Breivik his misguided say while never indulging excuses for his deeds. The response to him in court is deeply affecting. Moreover, the ripple effects of one such hideous act receives perceptive exploration enhanced by excellent performances. I do wish the murky, low-light compositions had given the scenes more clarity to aid the revelations. By contrast, the music does delicately interpret scenes. And as with Greengrass’ Bourne films, July 22 is superbly edited. There’s no sane way to comprehend such horror, but, significantly, July 22 honors Norway’s strength and knows where the heart belongs.

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Diane Carson

Diane Carson, Ph.D., Professor Emerita, has reviewed films for over 25 years and has covered the Cannes, Telluride, Toronto, Palm Springs, and Sundance festivals. She writes for KDHX, 88.1 FM. St. Louis’ community radio. One of the founders of the St. Louis International Film Festival, she continues to serve on juries. A past president of the University Film and Video Association, she taught film studies and production at St. Louis Community College and at Webster University. Her new book, written with two colleagues, is “Appetites and Anxieties: Food, Film, and the Politics of Representation,” Wayne State U. Press, 2014.