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Exercise in evil

A scene from 22 July (Netflix)


Exercise in evil

22 July takes a hard look at a mass killer’s deeds, but offers no redemption in their place

A deranged killer massacres 77 people in cold blood, most of them teenagers isolated on an island. Who could do such a thing? And how can survivors cope? 22 July, Netflix’s new film dramatizing real events in Norway in 2011, explores the murderer’s motives and the aftermath of his crime.

Far-right loner Anders Behring Breivik, furious that his country welcomes foreign refugees and immigrants, orchestrates a killing spree: A powerful bomb in downtown Oslo takes the lives of eight people near the prime minister’s office, and in the distraction, Breivik races to isolated Utøya Island, the site of a summer camp for members of the AUF, the youth branch of the liberal political party in power.

Disguised as a policeman, the killer begins gunning down terrified, fleeing teens. This scene, not glamorized, is chilling and helps earn the movie’s R rating for “disturbing violence, graphic images and language.”

Breivik surrenders once the real police arrive, but the terrible damage is done. Dozens of young people are dead. Hundreds of others are left to deal with physical injuries and psychological scars.

One of the injured, Viljar, recovers slowly from his wounds, learning to walk again after months in a hospital. Asked to testify in court against Breivik, Viljar vacillates between fear of the criminal and anger at what he’s done.

In court, Breivik smirks at the outraged public, and he remains full of hate toward immigration sympathizers. But the Norwegian justice system treats him amazingly well. When judges finally sentence him to solitary confinement in prison, it is only for “as long as he remains a danger to society.”

The movie ends with a glimmer of hope, but the hope is that Norway’s sons and daughters will somehow prevail against the dark forces of hatred that Breivik represents. Christian viewers will look in vain for any appeal to the God of justice and mercy. Without knowledge of true redemption from sin and evil, life for both the killer and survivors is bleak.