Directed by Paul Greengrass
Country: Norway / Iceland / USA
English director Paul Greengrass has a knack to recreate real-life events on the big screen, a faculty mirrored in brilliant films like Bloody Sunday (2002), United 93 (2006), and Captain Phillips (2013). Recently, he has turned his eyes to the Norway attacks of July 22, 2011, where a far-right terrorist diagnosed with narcissistic personality disorder killed 77 people.
Charismatic actor Anders Danielsen Lie (Oslo 31; Reprise; Personal Shopper) impersonates the monster with a convincing and indispensable coldness in a dramatic thriller based on the book One of Us by Åsne Seierstad. Despite featuring an exclusively Norwegian cast and crew on behalf of credibility, the film is English-spoken, which I see as an inconsistent choice.
In spite of this debatable choice, the account starts one day prior to the attack as we follow the silent Anders Breivik (Lie) preparing meticulously a double onslaught. In the first place, a car bomb explosion in Oslo, quite close to the Prime Minister’s office, and then after that, a mass shooting on the Utoya island during a Workers' Youth League (AUF) summer camp, an event organized by the Labor Party. He performs the massacre dressed in a police uniform, vociferating words of hate against Marxists, liberals, and members of the elite.
Following Breivik’s arrest, 17-year-old Viljar Hanssen (Jonas Strand Gravli), who survived the tragedy along with his younger brother Torje (Isak Bakli Aglen), becomes a central figure, having his rehabilitation, frustration, and trauma captured by Greengrass' agile lens. In parallel, Breivik’s court proceedings clarify his political view based on a deep disdain for immigrants, also demonstrating his self-gratification for the evildoing and general aloofness from the rest of the world. For me, Geir Lippestad (Jon Øigarden), the lawyer specifically appointed by Breivik to defend him is the most intriguing element of a plot whose intelligible narrative facilitates the perception of the entire picture.
On the one side, Greengrass touches the melodrama through the use of some emotional manipulation, but on the other side, he creates a visceral impact with the horrifying scenes. As a thriller, it can be an entertaining watching and the adrenaline rushes as a consequence of the nightmarish carnage. However, whenever our mind focuses on the idea of reality, it’s pain and sympathy that envelop us. Having that said, and in spite of a certain number of aspects that could be ameliorated, the dramatization works more often than it doesn’t.