Where were you on 22 July 2011? For myself, I had just graduated high school and was at my first job as a summer camp dishwasher, at a place that overworked and underpaid me. On top of that, I struggled across two months to find someone willing to see Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 with me. Overall, 2011 became the most miserable summer I ever had, but that was a day at Disneyland compared to the 69 teenagers and 8 adults killed by Anders Behring Breivik, an anti-Muslim, right-wing Christian extremist—the one responsible for Norway’s deadliest mass tragedy since WWII.
It of course remains greatly unfortunate that these lives ended on a day like any other; if you ask me, the one who causes such a disaster ought to pay back double to whomever family he took a precious child away from. Similarly, the filmmakers behind 22 July should pay back double to the victims, both of the tragedy and the audience seats, for their great disservice done to the memory of this horrific day. Instead of an actual movie, Netflix craps out a Wikipedia article converted into a screenplay that diffuses any emotionally heavy hits.
Everybody, particularly the man portraying Breivik, Anders Danielsen Lie, strains through the sensitive subject without clear direction. He starts by slumping through his dull moments in the motiveless beginning, then leads up to his anticlimactic presence into a “big finish” by attempting an emotional monologue to match Matt Damon’s improvised story near Saving Private Ryan’s climax, except without heartful sincerity. Another atrocious performance by Ola G. Furuseth, the prime minister, is impossible to take seriously with his empty speech… even Inglourious Basterds is easier to take seriously!
Then there’s the teenage “actors,” none of which can create trauma with even one-tenth the transparency of Chiwetel Ejiofor’s wide-ranged emotions in 12 Years a Slave. First off, there’s Seda Witt’s naïve performance as a useless love interest who serves no plot importance besides delivering the message that feels written last minute. Then there’s the boy playing Viljar Hanssen, who suffers from random inconsistent framing tossed around by the director/screenwriter Paul Greengrass (Captain Phillips, United 93).
Greengrass fails hard to help you identify with anyone as he jumps between subplots without rhyme or reason, the randomly selected scenes setting an infinitely random compilation. Nothing is learned about anybody at a personal level, their spoken words written only to push plot progression, not to establish the fire-breathing conflict. The deepest it goes in giving actually important information is Anders calling his targets, “Marxists,” due to his presumption that Europe promotes a false Democracy. That’s it, nothing else informative to be found here. As if this wasn’t inauthentic enough: Despite its Norwegian setting, everyone speaks English! Pretty disrespectful, isn’t it?
The only authentic thing about this noise is the look of the land, being the foggy weather that freezes into pale snow that looks of former beauty now the consistency of ashes. It contrasts the numerous nasty surgical procedures seen in the bloody reality of the hospital, ugliness penetrating deeper after smoke bellows out a blown-up building before the attack that sends these victims to that hospital. But even then, these low points of humanity still turn unintentionally hideous from how little real conflict is recreated.
Thus, teenage boy viewers will feel little connection with the little tangibility of fear triggered, instead of each victim’s backstory utilized through the narrative in the same fashion done by something like Schindler’s List or Spotlight, it abuses the typical scared, scrunched, crying faces to force out emotions. It’s inexcusable that this little care went into a biopic about something so recent, especially something American people need to hear, something that will hit uncomfortably close to home for all the relevant issues of gun violence and the public image of the law force.
Which stinks, because if the story of Viljar Hanssen, the focused survivor of this film, was pursued further, seeing him suffer through his struggle of limping on a cane would generate a sincerer desire to see good come of him. A better screenwriter could have matched this subject matter’s power to how Titanic generated empathy for the unnamed background faces just by detailing their predicament, but instead, 22 July does no help besides merely telling people that this event existed.
Better surveys of tragic chaos include The Hurt Locker, Paul Greengrass’s Oscar nominated United 93, or even Deepwater Horizon, which while also surface-level, still made the destruction of its water piece look incredible. Heck, most other surveys of historical turmoil would be better than this not-incredible, disrespectful rubble pile.
If there is a specific movie you’d like to see graded, or if you are interested in guest blogging for my site, please email me at Trevor@TrevorsViewOnHollywood.com for your recommendations.
Have a great weekend, and happy watching!
22 July. Netflix. Web. <https://www.netflix.com/title/80210932>.
Aavatsmark, Erik. “Bildet er fra den kommende filmen” Digital image. Forsiden. Schibsted. Web. <https://www.fvn.no/kultur/i/a2QV2E/Filmblogg-True-Crime-og-ny-film-om-22-juli>.
“Norway Terror Attacks Fast Facts.” CNN. Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., 16 Jul 2018. Web. <https://www.cnn.com/2013/09/26/world/europe/norway-terror-attacks/index.html>.
Shaw-Williams, Hannah. “22 July Ending: The Horrifying True Story Behind the Movie.” ScreenRant. 11 Oct 2018. Web. <https://screenrant.com/22-july-movie-netflix-ending-true-story/>.