Paul Greengrass takes a sensitive approach in dramatising the July 2011 terrorist attacks in Norway
In July 2011, far right terrorist Anders Behring Breivik unleashed the worst attack on Norway since World War II, killing 77 people. Paul Greengrass, the British filmmaker who has tackled tragedy before in both Bloody Sunday and United 93, recreates this fateful day and its aftermath. Is it too soon? That may be one question murmured amongst audiences, but Greengrass is an experienced director alert to the sensitivities of bringing such a horrific event to screens.
Later this month, Erik Poppe's one-take movie on the subject, U – July 22, will further prompt debate. But Greengrass, shooting in English with an all-Norwegian cast, doesn't linger for long on the attack, when Breivik detonated a bomb in Oslo, killing eight, before driving to the island of Utøya where he massacred 69 people – many of them teenagers – attending a Labour Party-affiliated summer camp for the Workers' Youth League.
Largely, 22 July concentrates on what happened after the attacks, as Breivik (chillingly played by Anders Danielsen Lie) was arrested and put on trial. The perspectives are multiple, from the Norwegian Prime Minister (Ola G. Furuseth) to Breivik's lawyer (Jon Øigarden) who believes it is essential to give this abhorrent individual a fair trial. But if there is a hero, then it is 17-year-old Viljar Hanssen (Jonas Strand Gravli), one of the survivors on Utøya, who faces months of gruelling physiotherapy and counseling.
It is Jonas who comes face-to-face with Breivik in his trial; a symbol of hope, open-mindedness and democracy against a man who comes armed with prejudice and hatred. If Breivik represents the unerring rise of the far right in Europe over these past years, Greengrass ensures 22 July rings out like a warning shot. A humanitarian experience, the losses are keenly felt, and the cast – particularly Gravli – admirably convey the psychological toll such a trauma takes.
Available to watch on Netflix and on selected cinema release from October 10.