22 July

Movie review by
Renee Schonfeld, Common Sense Media
22 July Movie Poster Image
Violent but affecting docudrama about Norway massacre.
  • R
  • 2018
  • 143 minutes

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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

A cautionary tale about the rise of fanaticism. Advocates choosing to resume a life of worth and hope after a horrendous tragedy and the challenges that follow: love, open communication, and standing together are essential for recovery. Population must rely on courageous involvement of governmental institutions and their adherence to ethical principles. 

Positive Role Models & Representations

Presents the slow return to life of a critically injured young man: He finds his courage, accepts his new reality, begins to find hope. Family members are portrayed as loving, committed, capable. Norway's legal and political systems are shown as responsive, caring, and adhering to ethical standards. Villain is wholly evil, lacks remorse, but still treated with humanity.  

Violence

A horrendous massacre takes place over almost 20 minutes; 69 students are shot to death, and scores are injured by a terrorist on an island campsite. The intense fear is palpable. Many violent images: Young people run for their lives and are sprayed by bullets, point-blank killings, bodies fall, terrified screaming, kids hide. A government building explodes; fires, people running in desperation, chaos erupts. Several hospital scenes include bloody images, tense efforts to save a boy's life, close-ups of open brain, etc. during surgical procedures. 

Sex
Language

Language includes several uses of "f--k," "s--t," "hell."

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Killer takes multiple pills at the onset of violence.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that 22 July is a docudrama about the tragic events that took place in Norway in 2011, when a Norwegian terrorist massacred 77 people, most of them teens at an island summer camp. All of the carnage takes place as the film begins. Explosives are detonated to destroy a government building; people flee and are injured. Then the armed assassin is followed on his relentless trek through the camp, shooting to kill and maim. Kids are mowed down; bloody bodies are strewn across the island's fields and buildings; and terrified young people run for their lives, hide, and are discovered and shot. Other disturbing scenes include up-closes of surgical procedures and treatment of bloody wounds, as well as brief flashbacks to the horrific events. Occasional profanity includes "f--k," "s--t," and "hell." It's a harrowing film that doesn't spare viewers a clear picture of the savagery of the attack but offers restraint and insight as the story unfolds to reveal the humanity of the victims and their families, as well as a political-judicial system that ultimately behaved honorably. Based on the book One of Us, by Asne Seierstad, it's intended for mature audiences only.

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What's the story?

22 JULY recreates the true-life 2011 massacre of 77 people, mostly teens at an island summer camp outside of Oslo, Norway, by a fanatic terrorist. Paul Greengrass concentrates on three facets of the tragic events: Viljar Hanssen (Jonas strand Gravli) a teen who was critically injured and fights to survive; the remorseless killer who considered himself a warrior for a fascistic (Neo-Nazi) cause; and governmental institutions -- including the Prime Minister and the legal system -- charged with dispensing justice. Anders Behring Breivik (Anders Danielsen Lie) first exploded a government building, killing eight people, then ferried to a camp filled with exuberant young people where, with stoic precision, he shot and killed 69 of them. Hundreds more were injured at the two sites. The tragic events make up only the first part of the film. What follows is the drama of the aftermath: Viljar's fragile recovery with his caring family and the little brother who survived without physical injury at his side; Brievik's fraught relationship with his lawyer (Jon Oigarden) and the ensuing courtroom drama; and, finally, Norway's stalwart commitment to an awareness that morality and humanity must be ever vigilant in the face of bigotry.

Is it any good?

As he retells this true story Paul Greengrass, keenly aware of the ramifications of making such a film, uses restraint and empathy for the families whose lives were upended by an obsessed assassin. His purpose is clear: to remind audiences of the heinousness of political extremism as a result of a volatile world. Greengrass sees Anders Bhering Brievik as a harbinger of building anger and fear that now envelopes so-called "populist" countries and communities. Noted as much for his agility at action-oriented movies (three of the Bourne films) as for his re-telling of real events (Captain Phillips, Bloody Sunday), the writer-director once again brings excellence to every facet of filmmaking. The film is beautifully-photographed, directed, edited, and performed. Opting to cast Norwegian actors as opposed to movie stars provides authenticity, as does his reliance on courtroom transcripts and the testimony of the families. Greengrass chose to focus on Viljar Hanssen, the young man whose appearance in the courtroom, face-to-face with his assailant, galvanized the country.  It's a mesmerizing, suspense-filled movie, despite the fact that most who see it are already familiar with the tragedy of 22 July.  

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the violence in 22 July. Because this is a true story, how disturbing were the scenes that re-created the massacre? How is your reaction different from the reaction you have when you see a fictional story? 

  • Paul Greengrass says about making this film: "The idea is not to sensationalize the attacks... It’s an attempt to do something serious... We do have to confront this so that people understand what happened -- and what’s happening now." Do you agree with his viewpoint? Do you think he accomplished his goal? Why or why not?

  • Think about Viljar's relationships with both his friend Lara and his little brother Torje. How did each of them affect Viljar's recovery? How did Viljar affect their recoveries?

  • Where can you learn more about the events this movie is based upon?

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