22-July


One of the most heinous crimes ever committed.

(2018) True Life Drama (NetflixAnders Danielsen Lie, Jonas Strand Gravli, Jon Ølgarden, Maria Bock, Thorbjørn Harr, Seda Witt, Isak Bakli Aglen, Ola G. Furuseth, Marit Adeleide Andreassen, Øystein Martinsen, Valborg Frøysnes, Harald Nordmann, Anders Kulsrud Storruste, Monica Borg Fure, Mathias Eckhoff, Selma Strøm Sönmez, Hilde Olausson. Directed by Paul Greengrass

 

As meaningful a date September 11, 2001 is in the United States, so July 22, 2011 is in Norway. On that date, a lone right-wing extremist detonated a bomb in downtown Oslo near the central government district which killed eight people, then continued on to Utøya island and a youth summer camp where many children of the liberal Labour party were staying. This massacre resulted in 69 more dead for a total of 77 dead, the worst massacre in Norway since the Second World War.

We meet Anders Behring Breivik (Lie) as he is preparing his explosives, mixing fertilizer and an accelerant and adding enough explosives to cause some real damage. In the meantime, children are arriving at their summer camp, playing soccer, renewing friendships and exchanging furtive looks across a campfire. Among them are Viljar Hanssen (Gravli) and Lara Rachid (Witt) who are certainly attracted to one another.

\When the attack comes to the island, everything falls into complete chaos. Viljar, Lara and his brother Torje (Aglen) take refuge on the cliff face near the beach. Breivik discovers them and Viljar is seriously injured protecting his brother. Eventually the police, who had been occupied with the bombing, make it up to the island and apprehend Breivik. As Viljar recovers and goes through often-frustrating physical therapy, his family adjust to the tragedy while Breivik requests that lawyer Geir Lippestad (Ølgarden) represents him during his trial. Although Lippestad leans to the left politically, he is required by law to provide representation to Breivik and despite a personal cost, he does his best.

Greengrass has done these sorts of true story films before as in Captain Phillips, Bloody Sunday and United 93. There was some concern that the movie came too soon after the massacre; many families are still grieving. However, he did turn in a nifty movie that not only showed the mechanics of the tragedy but also how the survivors were affected. The movie also follows the trial and how the lawyer for Breivik was also affected.

There is some (although in some cases, not enough) as to why this happened and certainly there are some clear parallels to what America is facing in violent extremist behavior and easy access to military grade weapons. Sensitive conservative-leaning viewers might be uncomfortable with the message being sent here but I can’t believe that anyone would argue that extremism is a bad thing other than an extremist.

Greengrass utilizes a mostly Norwegian cast (speaking in English) and a Norwegian crew; Cinematographer Pǻl Ulvik Rokseth does a magnificent job, showcasing the beauty of the island, and capturing the frantic chaos in the aftermath of the dual attacks. Greengrass wisely doesn’t linger on the attacks themselves although he doesn’t soft-pedal the horror of them either; in fact, I thought that the most superb scenes in the film were the courtroom scenes near the end.

I don’t know if this film is capitalizing on the trauma from the attacks or is merely documenting them. I tend to lean towards the latter, but I can understand people who are disturbed that this film was even made. It’s a very think line to walk, but I think Greengrass navigated it well particularly since he chose to focus on the victims rather than on the cowardly attacker. This is one of the most viscerally gripping films to come out of Netflix to date.

REASONS TO SEE: The courtroom scenes are riveting. Beautiful cinematography. Follows up with the victims and how the events of the day affected them.
REASONS TO AVOID: Could have trimmed a bit of excess
FAMILY VALUES: There are sequences of violence and some very disturbing images.
TRIVIAL PURSUIT: When the project was announced, there was great sentiment in Norway against it being made. Over 20,000 signatures were collected in a petition denouncing the film..
BEYOND THE THEATERS: Netflix
CRITICAL MASS: As of 12/25/19: Rotten Tomatoes: 80% positive reviews: Metacritic: 69/100.
COMPARISON SHOPPING: Patriots Day
FINAL RATING: 8.5/10
NEXT:
The Equalizer 2

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Pick of the Litter – October 2018


BLOCKBUSTER OF THE MONTH

Venom

(Columbia) Tom Hardy, Michelle Williams, Woody Harrelson, Jenny Slate. A photojournalist is infected with a malevolent alien symbiote whose moral compass doesn’t exactly point in the same direction as the host. However, the two will not only have to co-exist but the human half must allow the symbiote to take over so as to utilize the incredible powers it gives him if he is to stay alive.  October 5

INDEPENDENT PICKS

The Happy Prince

(Sony Classics) Rupert Everett, Colin Firth, Tom Wilkinson, Emily Watson. Everett (who also co-wrote and directed this film) stars as Oscar Wilde, one of the greatest English writers of all time and at one time, the toast of London. Known for his biting wit, Wilde ran afoul of the law due to his sexual predilections which in Victorian England were forbidden. This story is about the last days of his life as he views his failures and his troubles with humor and ironic detachment.  October 5

22 July

(Netflix) Thorbjørn Harr, Anders Danielsen Lie, Jon Ølgarden, Jonas Strand Gravli. Oscar-nominated director Paul Greengrass returns with another true story-based film for the streaming giant. The narrative feature documents the terrorist attacks in Norway on July 22, 2011 when a deranged right wing terrorist detonated a bomb in the central government district in Oslo and followed up two hours later by attacking a summer camp run by the ruling party with rifles and handguns. All in all, 69 people (mainly teens and young people) were killed at the camp and an additional eight in the bombing. It was Norway’s deadliest day since World War II.. October 10

Beautiful Boy

(Amazon) Steve Carell, Timothée Chalamet, Maura Tierney, Amy Ryan. Based on the memoirs of David and Nic Sheff, a loving father and son try to cope with addiction over the course of many years. Carell gives a performance that some are already touting for Oscar recognition. October 12

I Still See You

(Lionsgate) Bella Thorne, Dermot Mulroney, Amy Price-Francis, Richard Harmon. A massive event has caused the deaths of a vast percentage of the population; the dead however continue to be seen as ghosts who while visible cannot communicate or interact with the living. One young woman, struggling to study the phenomenon, becomes the target of a malevolent entity which may be able to reach out and touch the living and not in a good way. Chalk this one up to “an interesting premise.”. October 12

Liyana

(Abramorama) Gcina Mhlophe, Shofela Coker. A teacher in Swaziland assigns five children to write a story about a young girl their age on a quest that reflects their culture. Their story is captured in dazzling animation while the children’s lives are caught in live action documentary. This is a magical union between reality and imagination. October 12

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

(Fox Searchlight) Melissa McCarthy, Richard E. Grant, Dolly Wells, Ben Falcone. Lee Israel is an author without an audience. Once a bestselling biographer of celebrities along the lines of Katherine Hepburn and Estee Lauder in the 70s and 80s, she has fallen out of step with public tastes. Desperate for income, she resorts to deception abetted by her loyal friend Jack. File this under “You Couldn’t Make This Stuff Up.” October 19

Mid90s

(A24) Sonny Suljic, Lucas Hedges, Katherine Waterston, Na-Kel Smith. A 13-year old in L.A. during the 90s has to deal with a group of skater friends and a troubled home life. Directed by Jonah Hill, the movie has been getting quite a lot of buzz even before its debut at last month’s Toronto International Film Festival. October 19

 What We Had

(Bleecker Street) Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon, Robert Forster, Blythe Danner. With four leads as good as any you’ll see in a single film this year, this Oscar contender stars Swank as a woman who gets an urgent phone all from her brother in the middle of the night. Her mother who has a degenerative Alzheimer’s-like disease is becoming too difficult to manage at home but her father stubbornly refuses to let go of the life they have together.. October 19

Border

(Neon) Eva Melander, Eero Milonoff, Viktor Åkerblom, Rakel Warmlander. A Swedish customs officer becomes fascinated with the subject she is investigating but the more she finds out about him, the more she realizes that the two of them are linked in a way she couldn’t prepare herself for. The winner of Un Certain Regard at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, it is also Sweden’s official submission for the 2019 Foreign Film Oscar. October 26

The Dark

(Dark Sky) Nadia Alexander, Toby Nichols, Karl Marcovics, Margerete Tiesel. Look, it’s Halloween, right? You gotta have a horror film on this list and this film might just be the best  of the bunch. In a stretch of cursed woods, an undead teen girl meets a blind living boy. Both have been the victims of terrifying abuse. They find solace in each other but even in cursed woods the world won’t let them alone. There is some light at the end of the tunnel, but it might take a body count to get there. October 26