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Netflix’s ’22 July’ confronts the horrors of terrorism

When I hear the word “terrorism,” I never think of Scandinavia. But in 2011, Norway was hit by one of the most deadly terrorist attacks in the nation’s history. 

The film “22 July” is a docudrama that follows the events of the terror attacks on Oslo, Norway and the island of Utøya.


On July 22, 2011, a bomb exploded in Regjeringskvartalet the political center of Oslo The bomb had been placed by neo-nazi terrorist Anders Behring Breivik. Following the bombing Breivik, dressed as a police officer, traveled to the island of Utøya, a summer camp for kids. There were hundreds of kids on the island at the time, many of whom were the children of political figureheads in Norway.

Breivik was captured on the island but not after taking the lives of 69 teenagers and camp counselors. Before the attacks, he had sent out a manifesto stating the desire to purge Norway of Islam and his connections to the Alt-Right and Neo-Nazi movement in Europe. It was the worst terror attack Norway had ever seen.

The movie’s runtime is two hours and 23 minutes, and while the actual attack lasted for about an hour and a half, it only lasted about 15 minutes in the film. The rest of the film felt like a survival story following one of the injured teenagers from the island, Viljar Hanssen (Jonas Strand Gravil) and his brother.

“22 July” is now streaming on Netflix.

The film did not shy away from the brutality of the attacks. Paul Greengrass, the director best known for the “Bourne” series, shows the gruesome killings in medium cut shots including the murder of teens close range. Greengrass is known for his unapologetic use of violence on screen, and “22 July” was no exception.

The panic that was felt by the kids on the island translates well in the cinematography and the follow shots as people ran through the forest to find a place to hide. There were moments where the viewer stared down the barrel of a gun.

The rest of the film focused on the trial and the backlash of the attacks on Hanssen, one of the survivors, and I wish that the tragic aftermath had been expanded upon. The film only went into Hanssen’s recovery had fleeting moments that discussed the teenagers who had lost their lives. There also wasn’t a lot of focus on the international implications of this attack, considering Breivik claimed to desire to purge all of Europe of the Islamic people.

The most frightening aspect of the film is the killer’s nonchalant behavior. Breivik demands to be tried as sane and says more attacks will come if his demands are not met. These unfounded threats are aggravating and terrifying.

The film also briefly enters the realms of politics and how the Prime Minister (Ola Furuseth,) faces the nation. These moments added a lot to the film and created a window into the politics of Norway, which I know next to nothing about. 

Breivik was found guilty. Norway does not have the death penalty and the max amount of years a criminal can receive is 21 until the case is re-evaluated. This style of justice was completely foreign to me and at first, and I was angry, but taking a second look, I realized that this type of legislation allows for minor criminals to at least be considered to re-enter society. Breivik, on the other hand, should never be considered unthreatening to society.


Should you watch it? Yes.

I enjoyed how the film focused mostly on the trial than on the killings. It made me feel angry and sad, and then overcome with hope when Hanssen took the stand and told Breivik he was completely alone in this world. The film was hard to watch, but it was important to understand why this happened and how far hatred is willing to go to win.

Claire Oliver can be reached at and on Twitter @claireity21. 

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