Paul Greengrass’s 22 July and its Chilling Reminder of Far-Right Terror

17th October 2018

22 July, the emotional, hard-hitting reenactment of the 2011 right-wing terrorist attack in Norway was released on Netflix and select theatres this Wednesday.

On that date, far-right nationalist Anders Breivik committed one of the most disturbing acts of terror witnessed since 9/11. Breivik begun the attacks by detonating a car bomb parked outside the office of the Prime Minister, killing eight and injuring over 200, leaving the area destroyed and in utter panic. He then traveled 40 km north disguised as a policeman to the small island of Utoya, the home of youth summer camps for Norway’s labor party, the AUF. After his arrival, Breivik opened fire killing 68 innocent people and injuring 110, almost all of whom were children. Just prior to his atrocities, Breivik emailed a rambling 1,500 page manifesto to over 2,000 individuals that denounced “cultural Marxism”, Islam and multiculturalism.

The newly released film is emotionally painful to watch. It was directed by well-known British director, Paul Greengrass, the director behind Flight 93, Captain Phillips and the entire “Bourne” series. The decision to make the film was subject to debate, with some questioning whether sufficient time had passed before the depiction of such a realistic portrayal of events that still resonate strongly in Scandinavian communities. However, Greengrass has produced what is a bone-chilling recreation of the events of the day, which resulted in innocent children running for their lives as they are mercilessly hunted by a madman.

The film also extensively covers the trial of Breivik and the moving process of recovery of his victims. Greengrass’s film focuses on the response of Norwegian society to the terror attack, and depicts the survivors courageously moving their lives forward despite the unimaginable impact of such violence.

Critics have debated whether the timing of its release was appropriate and if Greengrass had properly portrayed the events of the day. Seven years on from the Norway attacks, the global far-right has continued to grow and the issues that drive its ideologies have escalated throughout our world. A recent article reveals how little is known in the US and how much has been forgotten about the horrific far-right terror that shook Norwegian society. Despite the critics, it is for this reason that, Greengrass’s film should be watched by American audiences. The film’s eerie precision may play a part in awakening American’s minds to the realities of far-right terror.

22 July is not the first film on this subject. A similar movie, U-July 22, was released at the Berlin International Film Festival this February. However, Greengrass’s film which is more likely to be seen by American audiences, as it benefits from both a celebrated director and a Netflix release. As the far-right has only grown since Breivik’s atrocities, this movie is a chilling reminder of far-right terror and the violence that can ensue under such ideologies. Let us hope that the memory of the events that Norwegians experienced that summer day is slow to fade from our memory.