The Invisible Man
The Way Back
Never Rarely Sometimes Always
Forgot your password?
Don't have an account? Sign up here
Got more questions about news letters?
Already have an account? Log in here
and the Terms and Policies,
and to receive email from Rotten Tomatoes and Fandango.
Please enter your email address and we will email you a new password.
We encourage our community to report abusive content and/ or spam. Our team will review flagged items and determine whether or not they meet our community guidelines.
Please choose best explanation for why you are flagging this review.
Thank you for your submission. This post has been submitted for our review.
Sincerely, The Rotten Tomatoes Team
A dramatic retelling of the tragic 2011 terrorist attack at Utøya 22. July, this film manages to capture the grief, tragedy and drama of the terrible incident while being unsettling and thought-provoking.
Be sure you know the history that this is based on first, or you'll go away thinking youv'e watched a horror movie without monsters.
Almost unbearably upsetting dramatisation of the massacre that took place in Norway in 2011. Apparently shot in real time and one take, it is very successful in conveying the panic and shock without forgetting to honour the quiet unrecorded acts of heroism. And it correctly ignores the faux rationale and perverted ideology of the perpetrator. Exceptional.
A disturbing film about a tragedy. Shot well, but is pretty cliched at times.
The way it's shot bored the hell outta me.
Brilliant use of the tenets of cinema verite make for a disturbingly realistic experience
Utoya 22. juli is an aesthetically fascinating, pseudo-documentarian examination of the 2011 Utoya massacre, told from the perspective of one of the youths trapped on the island. Decidedly different from Paul Greengrass's 22 July (2018), the makers of Utoya 22. juli have little interest in political contextualisation. Where it is especially laudable, however, is in its extraordinary aesthetic design.
Written by Anna Bache-Wiig and Siv Rajendram Eliassen, from a story treatment by Erik Poppe, who also directs, Utoya 22. juli is based exclusively on the testimony of survivors, but the characters are fictional, with the lead character, Kaja (an extraordinary Andrea Berntzen), being a composite of several people.
Both the Utoya attack and a bomb in Oslo which preceded it were carried out by Anders Behring Breivik, a right-wing terrorist who believed that Europe was experiencing a Clash of Civilisations brought about by refugee crises, and who saw himself as a knight fighting against Muslim immigration.
Utoya 22. juli is a relatively apolitical film, and has little interest in contextualising the event within a larger socio-political framework. For example, Breivik is seen only once, from a distance, silhouetted against the horizon. Instead of showing him, the film is rigidly tied to Kaja's perspective. In the wake of the real event, the dead, injured, and traumatised were anonymous, with Breivik occupying all the headlines. The film inverts this so that we focus wholly on the victims, with the perpetrator denied any agency. In fact, his name is never mentioned once, not even in the brief opening or closing legends.
Aesthetically, the film is masterful. For example, from the time of the first gun-shot to Breivik's arrest, 72 minutes passed. In the film, from the time we hear the first gunshot to the cut to black, exactly 72 minutes pass. Additionally, we hear the exact same number of gunshots as Breivik fired in real-life; 186. However, where it is most audacious is that the 72-minute sequence is made to look like a single-shot, with the edits hidden behind camera movement or darkness on screen. Coupled with this, everything is filmed hand-held.
Together, the hand-held cinematography, the single-shot effect, and the real-time structure work to establish a pseudo-documentarian verisimilitude, as if the camera is literally capturing these events as they are really happening. In this sense, the fabula is as unmediated as possible, without any impression of either an omnipresent artifice, or an omniscient authorial voice.
Instead, the film works to inculcate the viewer into the event. This creates a prominent experiential plane, as the audience is made to consider what it must have been like to be involved. In this way, the film avoids being exciting in any conventional sense, and rarely has the artifice of a single-take been this thematically justified.
A final point on the film's aesthetic design concerns the opening of the 72-minute sequence. As the camera approaches Kaja from behind, she turns around and looks directly into it, saying "You'll never understand." This seems a challenge as much as an assertion, directed at the audience in a break of the fourth wall. However, after a moment, she turns her head and we see she is wearing an earpiece and talking to her mother on the phone, and her comment was diegetic - when she looked into the camera, she wasn't addressing the audience, it was simply the direction in which she was looking. This simple but effective moment knocks the audience immediately off balance, alerting us to the artifice of the film in an almost Verfremdungseffekt, before then shifting 180 degrees away from that apparent moment of self-reflexivity and immersing us completely into the fabula.
If I were to criticise anything, it would be that although Poppe remains detached for the most part, he does on occasion feel the need to foreground sentimentality. The most egregious example is when Kaja starts singing whilst hiding with a fellow student. It's a mawkish scene which doesn't accomplish anything, and comes across as a deliberately scripted concession to the rules of cinematic drama.
As aesthetically inventive as it is emotionally devastating, Utoya 22. juli will be sure to prompt debate about whether such an event should be used to provide the source material for a film, especially this soon after the fact. Some will argue it's exploitative and disrespectful, others will see it as a dignified memorial. The last three or four minutes are utterly devastating, and really drive home the senseless loss of life and innate randomness of what happened. However, Poppe's main goal is to show the audience the bravery of these people. Evil, he suggests, is banal. Compassion and valour are much more worthy of our attention.
What is incredible is that this actually happened, but there it has to be someone that can make this film better.
One of the most hard-hitting and emotionally charged movies of this decade with fantastic direction and marvelous acting.