Norway’s deadliest terrorist attack and its aftermath are examined from the perspectives of a survivor and his family, the attacker, the citizens and politicians.
One Haunting Set Piece;
Superbly Shot and Acted;
A Troubling Watch.
After Bloody Sunday, United 93 and Captain Phillips, Paul Greengrass is delveoping a reputation for staging dramatic recreations of real life terror events to a very effective degree. He returns to that format here, bringing the chilling events in Oslo on July 22nd, 2011 to life in menacing fashion. To some, it may feel exploitative and drawn-out, but to me, in the current political climate around the world, it felt necessary by the time the credits rolled. It is not a straight-up story told from a single perspective; we see the events unfold from the eyes of both the killer and the victims, and that is just the opening twenty minutes. Beyond that, we have a two hour procedural about recovery, the legal process, and a nation in need of healing. I have read multiple accounts that deride the decision to give the role of the killer so much screen time to spout his ideas, but those critiques seem weak and short-sighted to me. A large reason why we are where we are in 2018 is because of the desire to look away and ignore rather than engage head-on. Greengrass doesn’t stop at the first-person-shooter, handheld-style action set piece that rocked Norway and took almost 80 lives, he also settles in for the long-haul afterward, letting the camera itself also settle on the perpetrator. A voice is given to his motives, and the same treatment is given to his attorney, a man who vehemently disagrees with his client’s worldview but believes in his sworn duty to provide a worthy defense. It is admirable, to me, to make a film like this today because so many people are likely to be unsettled by it, long after the terrorist assault is over. You should be unsettled by it. Events like this, and people with these types of ideas, should upset you. But the best thing you can do is beat their ideas with your own, and that was the impression the film left me with. The writing is believable and strong, the direction sticks with substance over style (it doesn’t always feel like a Greengrass picture, though some of the trademarks are present), and while the pacing can be a bit trying, it is done so to provide room for all of the characters to explore their paths. If you eliminate the killer from most of the film, you cut it down to two hours but sacrifice what the film seems to be trying to say. The Norwegian cast does an excellent job, even while speaking entirely in English, bringing even more authenticity to a project that must have already been meticulously constructed to do the events justice. Everything on display here is the definition of unflinching and the result is the suspenseful drama that 2018 needs. It should be seen and listened to, because while art imitates life, sometimes it needs to lead the way forward, for the good of everyone, no matter how uncomfortable it may make us in the process.