22 July

* * * 1/2 (Netflix)

Paul Greengrass’s ambitious portrait of Norway’s response to the attacks of Anders Breivik on 22 July, 2011 is not, possibly contrary to expectations, a provocative, kinetic terror simulacrum à la United 93 or Bloody Sunday. It does dramatize the horrific events, but only for the first 12 minutes or so of the film, and never in a way that feels sensationalistic, lurid or exploitative. The rest of the substantial – two and a half hour – running time is split between a very sober depiction of the struggles the court and political system went through trying to deal with Anders, and the story of one survivor’s rehabilitation.

The first element is brilliantly done, possibly Greengrass’s most subtle work, and holds up a model of how a civilized society can remain civilized even when an aberration of such magnitude occurs. The maturity shown by every level of Norwegian society – even by one of Anders’ alt-right heroes – seems to us, in the age of rage, simply staggering. While Trump calls for the death penalty for suspects via Twitter and the use of torture for suspected terrorists, here we can see a female police officer pausing her interrogation of a confessed mass-murderer to allow the application of a band-aid to his pinky for the tiny abrasion he claims he got “on the skull of a girl I shot.” It is the portrait of a nation in crisis but remaining calm, the opposite of mass hysteria.

The parallel story, of one of the teenage victims and their painstaking physical and psychological recovery, is, unfortunately, boring, however well staged and acted. It operates as a very obvious metaphor for Norway itself, and drags the whole show. Greengrass would be well advised to offer a 100 minute or so tight re-edit with far, far less of this easily disposable footage, and, given the Netflix platform, I see no reason he couldn’t. The result could stand alongside his best work, including the aforementioned films and Captain Phillips. Unfortunately, as it stands, 22 July is inspiring and informative but simply too padded out.

Jason Bourne

JASON-BOURNE

***1/2

This time around Jason Bourne finds himself pitted against… the Director of the CIA. I seem to remember this was the basis of the first Bourne movie, but it’s been an awfully long time. I didn’t see the last one, with Jeremy Renner instead of Matt Damon, but Damon is back in this one, and he’s become very beefy. Bourne is earning a crust bare-knuckle boxing around the fringes of Europe, which isn’t important to the plot in the slightest, but made for an extremely viral-friendly trailer.

Bourne learns a dark secret about his past (specifically, his indoctrination into the CIA’s creepy program) while the CIA itself is having problems with their Facebook-like puppet information-gatherer, Deep Dream. The concept that the CIA funded the world’s major social media company as a young start-up and has been using it to monitor us all ever since is a strong and spooky one, and it’s well played for the first two acts. Unfortunately, this idea – along with almost all logic – goes out the window for the final act, which is ludicrous.

Look, the whole thing is ludicrous, but it’s actually enormous fun. It’s staffed by a realm of really good actors and somehow they make it work. Tommy Lee Jones, as head of the CIA, stares into an awful lot of monitors with blue light bathing his face, and he does it well. Scott Shepherd, following on from his CIA agent in Bridge of Spies, plays the Deputy Director, and, if he wants it, seems to have a career in the Hollywood CIA ahead of him. Alicia Vikander gets to stare into monitors and move around a bit, and she does both well, although her very weird accent suggests she may be Irish. Vincent Cassel plays “The Asset”, which is just cool in every way. Best of all, Riz Ahmed plays the Zuckerberg stand-in with a perfect mix of cockiness and trepidation, a sweet inversion of his character from The Night Of.

Director Paul Greengrass never takes the thing off the boil; the music, in particular, is all peak and no valley, so the whole film feels like one extended action sequence. When it hypes up into an actual action sequence – there are a few vehicular chases, fistfights et al – Greengrass once again, as has always been his wont, cuts it all up into an incoherent mess. It is truly bizarre that this excellent director will not heed our cries to be able to see the chase, follow the fight. At this point, it feels deliberate and belligerent on his part. But he shoots crowds and squares and train stations and other civic centres extremely well, and it is in these that Bourne and The Asset bustle, in London, Athens, Rome and other cool places, giving us a pumped-up, giddily rewarding espionage travelogue, which is pretty much how I remember the first Bourne movie from all those years ago.