Paul Greengrass Furthers His Exploration of Terror in ’22 July’

The director of ‘United 93’ and ‘Captain Phillips’ is still consumed with the weakness and strength of the human race.
By  · Published on September 4th, 2018

Strength does not exist in the absence of weakness. Bravery is not a lack of fear. Those that dare to go on despite unstoppable terror are the ones who ultimately make change not only in their lives but the lives of others.

That dramatic cocktail also happens to be the perfect thirst quencher for Oscar gold. Will 22 July sway the streaming prejudices of Academy voters? This new trailer makes a helluva case.

Paul Greengrass has made a career exploring the depths of human monstrosity. From Bloody Sunday to United 93 to Captain Phillips, Greengrass’ desire to champion survival in the face of overwhelming atrocity fuels his purpose. He’s done his duty in the arena of blockbuster entertainment, and he may one day return with Matt Damon for their Eliot Ness actioner, but the human will to live is the ultimate question Greengrass is looking to answer with his movie camera.

Netflix laid out $20 million to aid Greengrass’ latest investigation into human terror. 22 July details the 2011 events that transpired on Utøya Island, Norway, when a Christian extremist marched into a Labor Party youth camp and opened fire on the crowd. He killed 69 attendees only after detonating a fertilizer bomb outside the Prime Minister’s headquarters in Oslo which took the lives of eight others. This was Norway’s greatest loss of life since World War II.

Greengrass wrote the script of the film based on the book “One of Us” by Åsne Seirstad. As you can see in the trailer, 22 July is not interested in simply witnessing the atrocity, but the aftereffect as well. The trial of Anders Behring Breivik lasted three months and dominated the national consciousness. While the assassin sought an audience to spew his hatred against Muslim immigration, several victims looked for the courage to stand in front of their attacker. There is no doubt what human strength Greengrass is looking to embolden, but 22 July will also root around for the origins of Breivik’s broken mind.

Along with Roma and The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, 22 July is part of a new theatrical distribution strategy from Netflix. In the past, the streaming platform has four-walled releases like Beasts of No Nation and Okja in an effort to qualify for Academy Awards consideration — New York and L.A., but nothing fancy. This year, after all three movies premiere at the Venice International Film Festival, they will pop up in 12 cities across the country (mostly at Landmark Theaters). On October 22nd, 22 July is the first film to hit in those select cities along with a day and date Netflix release.

Why? Netflix already owns all the money in the world. They’ve got their subscriptions, why be so eager for an Oscar? Ted Sarandos, Netflix’s chief content officer, is hungry. Getting the boot from Cannes only emboldened that appetite. To achieve total universal domination and legitimacy in Hollywood, he needs that little gold man. He’s not the first spite-driven producer.

Call it bragging rights or parental acceptance, sooner or later, Netflix will get their trophy. 22 July is a good bet. Real life tragedy + human endurance = 12 Years A Slave, Argo, Schindler’s List, etc. Paul Greengrass is a filmmaker that often condemns while praising the species with one swift thwack. Stroke that masochism to victory.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)