A dark, historical film that is difficult to experience but necessary to watch. And it is in English, not subtitles.
22 July, directed by the accomplished Paul Greengrass (the Borne films and Captain Phillips) is a mesmerizing historical work that you will have to hunt down on Netflix where it is currently playing. I saw it in the theatre here in Indianapolis on its last day, and I was the only one in the audience.
The film is both understandable and unfortunate from a viewer’s perspective. It is understandable because it recreates the horrifying terrorist attack by one man on an island close to Oslo, Norway in 2011 that killed 77 counselors and teenagers while wounding over 200. It is unfortunate because who would really want to take time to experience such a monumental tragedy?
Well, anyone interested in history should because parts of it resonate in our own country to this very day. In July of 2011, a smart, Norwegian racist madman by the name of Anders Behring Breivik decided that his country of Norway was on the verge of collapse with its loose immigration policy. Feeling that he had to try to save his own country, he first placed explosives in a van where he nearly destroyed a governmental ministry in Oslo. Immediately thereafter, he departed to a small island where he wanted to finish his work.
It became obvious that Mr. Breivik was proud of what he was doing, and he ventures to the island where numerous Norwegian teenagers are on a vacation. Pretending to be a police officer, he lands on the island and begins to destroy everyone that he sees. As you watch young kids gunned down in buildings and as they clung to cliffs trying to hide, you experience a horror far worse than what you will see in Halloween. This was real!
The movie runs close to 2 hours and 15 minutes, and the first 45 minutes deal with the tragedy described above. Thereafter, you watch a group of parents thrown into chaos as they try to determine if their young child is alive or dead.
The last 2/3 of the movie centers on the attempted recovery of Viljar (Yonas Strand Gravli) as he fights to survive after being shot 5 times by Breivik. While his brother avoided being shot, one of the most powerful performances of the film is given by Maria Bock as Viljar’s mother. You will be left crying with her and her husband as they initially feel that their son is dead only to learn that he is in intensive care in the hospital. The remainder of the film centers on Viljar’s dancing with death while Breivik prepares for trial. The movie focuses on his relationship with his attorney played by Jon Oigarden and this part of the film makes it a must for all lawyers.
Though Breivik’s attorney has no idea why he was selected to represent him, he is dedicated to doing his job. In the process, he is vilified by the public, repeatedly receiving threats on his family. It gets so difficult for him that he and his wife are forced to withdraw their child from a school because the school fears violent repercussions.
The attorney-client relationship is on full display in this film, and after 40 years as a criminal defense lawyer, I was reminded of what it was like to represent a psychopath. More to the point, while Breivik’s defense counsel doesn’t like him, he will do all that he can to see that he is given the benefit of the law.
As noted, Breivik’s stated purpose in killing all of these kids was to oppose Norway’s accommodation to immigration and multiculturalism. While he claimed that those two problems were permeating all of Europe, he also said that it was infecting the United States.
Given President Trump’s vocal opposition to immigrants as reflected by his outrage over the caravan marching through Mexico, you couldn’t help but feel that Breivik would have been one of our President’s biggest fans. Furthermore, given our low unemployment rate and the fact that housing in Florida and other areas hit by hurricanes are suffering labor shortages, why is it that anyone views immigrants as a threat? Doesn’t it matter that most are deeply religious or is the opposition really based on making sure that the phrase “Make American Great Again” really means “Make America White Again.”
Look, I know that there are those of you who have found fault with the political implications that I find in some films. However, 22 July might as well have been referring to 2018 in the United States as opposed to 2011 in Norway. President Trump has consistently riled a small number of the masses to hatred and contempt with his tweets and volcanic campaign speeches, and it is represented by having his followers chant “Lock her up.” Is it any wonder that one of his followers is likely responsible for sending the explosive devices through the mail aimed at those Democrats who Trump vocally condemns?
What you see taking place in our country today with these devices sent through the mail is exactly what took place in Norway in 2011. Norwegians stood up and took a stand at that time and it is imperative that we do the same thing.
One final thought. While President Trump wants to have a large military force make sure that the caravan marching through Mexico doesn’t enter our country, what would have happened if all Native Americans had responded the same way when the Pilgrims landed in 1620. What if those Native Americans had decided to execute all Europeans landing on America’s shores because they wanted to make sure that “America was Great Again”?
Anyone with an interest in trial practice should hunt down this film on Netflix.