Film Review – Utoya: July 22 (2018)

Utoya July 22

Title – Utoya: July 22 (2018)

Director – Erik Poppe (The King’s Choice)

Cast – Andrea Berntzen, Aleksander Holmen, Solveig Koløen Birkeland, Jenny Svennevig

Plot – A fictional account of the terror attack on the Norwegian island of Utoya in 2011 as the film follows teenager Kaja (Berntzen) on a quest to survive the massacre and find her younger sister.

“I need to find my sister”

Review by Eddie on 25/11/2019

The second of two 2018 film’s that tackled the terrifying and horrific terrorist attacks committed in Norway in 2011 by mass-murderer Anders Behring Breivik, Utoya: July 22 takes a much different approach to proceedings than Paul Greengrass’s Netflix film, that took a much more long-winded and wide-scoped approach, by throwing viewers onto Utoya island in a single, often breath-taking single shot take that dazzles and frustrates in equal measure.

While there’s a brief moment at the films start that shows the terror in Oslo, Erik Poppe’s film throws viewers headfirst into this fateful day and time, as we follow Andrea Berntzen’s fictional Kaja as she looks to survive the island massacre, whilst searching for her younger sister, all without a single edit as 90 or so minutes of run time takes place.

By not taking time out of the terror, we as a viewer feel very much like a bystander to faithfully recreated scenarios that are both horrifying and shocking and in this sense Utoya is a marvel and one of those instances where the fabled long take doesn’t at all feel like a gimmick, more so a filmmaking technique that immerses us whole heartedly into a time and place history will never forget.

As the bullets begin to ring out and the chaos on the island, filled with teenagers and children unfolds, Utoya feels less like a film and more like a documentary, meaning the confrontational nature of the subject will be tough viewing for some and most surely not the stuff of light-hearted movie making.

Where Poppe’s film falls rather flat and at times genuinely frustrating is around its long-take scenario, with much of the films stilted dialogue, long-winded and often repetitive scenes and collection of so-so supporting turns letting the film down.

While the single take works so well, there are moments you wish Poppe had the gumption to take a swift edit to some of the scenes or refine some of the conversations/character decisions to polish the film.

Instances where terrified teens repeatedly use their cell phones whilst a gun-wielding murderer roams close by or scenes where characters seemingly move from a safe haven to an easy to be picked off hiding spot do begin to frustrate, as Poppe looks to move his fact-inspired but fictional account forward, even if lead actress Berntzen should be commended for her fully committed and intense acting turn.

You get the feeling had the film chosen long-takes with some well-thought out breaks and edits, some refinement could’ve gone a long way in a storytelling and character building sense.

Final Say –

As immersive a look at the Utoya attacks as were ever likely to get, Erik Poppe’s film has much to admire but also far too many elements left to be desired, meaning this sometimes brilliant and sometimes downright bad thriller ends up in that odd middle ground.

2 ½ yellow jackets out of 5   

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