Athena (2022)

Athena (2022)

Movie Details

Movie: Athena (2022)
Director: Romain Gavras
Cast: Dali Benssalah, Sami Slimane, and Anthony Bajon
Movie Type: Action/Thriller
Release date: 2 September 2022
IMDB Rating: 6.8/10
Languages: French and Arabic.
Duration: 1h 39m


Athena (2022)


Just three weeks after its premiere in Venice, a kinetic novelty from a lover of splendor and spectacle Romain Gavras has arrived on Netflix. His previous films (the thriller Our Day Will Come and the crime comedy The World is Yours) did not make such a dent in the world as the prized music videos for Kanye West or MIA. However, the son of the prized director Costa-Gavras has repeatedly proven that he has a strongly developed feeling for uncompromising audiovisual experiences, which in the current He reveals perhaps too much to Athena.

The story focuses on four brothers with Algerian roots who live in a Paris housing estate called Athena. The youngest Idir is killed by men dressed in police uniforms, and the remaining trio reacts in their way. Young and full of revolutionary ideals, Karim unleashes riots as he vainly demands that Idir’s murderers be punished. Elder Abdel, serving in the French army, tries to calm Karim down and wants to prevent further escalation of events at all costs. And the oldest Moktar is a drug dealer and tries not to get involved in social conflicts at all. We will gradually spend some time with each of them, and during one heated day, their fates will be tragically intertwined in the Athenian housing estate.

So there is always a trio of brothers in the center of the action, as well as one captured policeman, who involuntarily participates in power games. Gavras begins to press for emotions and moves the narrative more to a personal level, where it already rubs off – because suddenly we are supposed to sympathize with characters about whom we have not yet learned much.

“Since when do we trust social media and the news on TV?” asks Chief Revolutionary Karim, proving his naivety and recklessness. Nevertheless, the motivation for social unrest tends to be personal, as shown by the example of this family divided between several factions. However, the relationships shown are superficial, without context, and the focus on a few brothers also feels quite artificial. Therefore, slowing down and striving for a darker outcome towards the end manifests itself in a loss of pace.

However, this framing story is not really what the film is about. Already the opening ten-minute one-shot (actually containing several invisible cuts) is an elemental and immersive spectacle, and it was not for nothing that it was talked about in Venice. The carefully choreographed attack on the police station and the subsequent drive through the city contain some fascinating filmmaking magic and make the film worth seeing. The first half in particular will then offer several similarly long and arranged camera runs, in front of whose lens extensive street fights involving dozens of extras will take place. Thanks to the in-frame montage, there is an alternation of details and wholes, and Gavras certainly cannot be denied the ability to attract the audience’s attention.

The absolute emphasis on the flamboyance of the style even raises the question of whether Gavras is not dealing with a burning topic in an exploitative way and is not abusing social unrest for a show of crowd choreography or attractive night fireworks. Some one-shot scenes are based on a colorful or fiery spectacle, others on ingenious camera moves or scale changes. In any case, the goal is to convey an impression, to throw the viewer into the middle of a civil war and let them wander through confusing housing estates, where danger can lurk around every corner, together with somewhat anonymous characters.

It’s a bit of a shame that the film isn’t getting a theatrical release, as the widescreen camera movements would stand out a lot more on the big screen than when playing at home. Even so, this is an uncompromisingly energetic ride of the video clip style, which for the sake of style has somewhat forgotten about telling the story – and it is therefore not surprising that some of the French critics of the film blame the aestheticization of violence and the neglect of a complex context. However, if you treat yourself to Athena as part of a double program with the more thematically elaborate Les Misérables , it could be an engaging and apt insight into the current French unrest.

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