Do you want to know how good this movie is? It is so good that after the opening ten minutes, I had to pause it and wait. Wait for the opportunity to watch it high in order to fully commit to this cinematic experience. Athena is a French action movie following the clashes between the police and protestors in a rough Parisian neighborhood. Basically, the entire movie is one long fight between these two sides. And we will get the opportunity to take a look at this conflict from the perspectives of both sides. The action starts from the moment one and it rarely lets up, it is unrelenting. And when I say unrelenting, I mean it’s motherfucking unrelenting!
I dare you to watch the opening ten minutes of this movie, Athena, and not watch the rest of it. I fucking double and triple dare you! The opening sequence is a work of art, painstakingly choreographed and unsettlingly explosive. The attention to detail was stunning and you could feel somebody spent a lot of time thinking about this. That moment when the local drunk asks for a cigarette was pure fucking gold. This is not surprising as the director Romain Gavras also made a lot of music videos and commercials. So, he knew how to create that larger-than-life vibe. Now, some of the scenes do feel just a tad bit theatrical contrasting the brutal realism of the rest of the movie.
Athena is a movie that’s going to place you right in the center of the action. And then it’s going to take you for a ride. A crazy, unhinged, and thoroughly captivating ride. One of the scenes I absolutely loved was the one where a young cop Jerome slowly makes his way from the police van to the riots. It’s absolutely sublime and you can fully immerse yourself in this character. For just a couple of minutes, it will feel like you’re there. And you’ll able to feel what Jerome feels. And Jerome is a cop. At this point, we should probably delve a little deeper into the whole riot issue. The French and violent protests, I am right or am I right?
When you’re left with no other option but the street in order to live a decent life and be treated like a human being, that street will be on fire. I fully understand the rage these young men and women are feeling. They’re set up to fail from the moment they’re born in these rough neighborhoods. And Satan forbid the color of your skin is not white and your religion is not Christianity. The unemployment rate is huge and the state simply does not care about these people. It’s eerie to watch these highly armed police forces beating and attacking people trying to fight for justice when you remember French Colonial history.
And this is coming from someone who hates hooligans and thugs. No justice no peace. I remember writing something similar while talking about Shorta, a Danish movie following cops who find themselves stranded in enemy territory during riots. I also have to mention ’71 as it offers a different, military perspective on this issue. One of the reasons why Athena works so well is because it shows us the true image of a young man in 2022. Even while he’s hanging on to a door of a speeding truck he still has time to snap a selfie. And Karim knows all about the power of social media and uses it to his advantage.
13-year-old Idir has died after a group of police officers beat him a couple of hours earlier. His brother, Abdel, a soldier in the French army is currently holding a press conference attempting to defuse the situation. In the audience is Karim, a young man who’s not willing to go quietly into the night. And he has an army behind him. What happens next is chaos on a massive scale.
Make no mistake, what you’re about to see in the movie Athena is a war. Intense, deadly, and completely fucked up war. A war that has been going on for quite a while now. I remember watching La Haine in the late nineties, a movie following an aftermath of a brutal riot. And here we are now, twenty years later and nothing has changed. Moving on, Athena drew inspiration from the huge 2005 French riots. During those riots, more than 8000 cars were burned and the police made more than 2500 arrests. They started after two young 13-year-old boys died during a chase with the police.
I would be remiss not to mention Sami Slimane’s sublime performance as Karim. He not only looked the part he was the fucking part along with Dali Benssalah as Abdel. Athena was shot in the Parc aux Lièvres housing project in Evry, a small suburb in Paris also known as The Rabbit Park. Now, was that a coincidence or what? Finally, the ending of the movie features something we’ve seen in real life in many European countries. The playbook might’ve been written by the CIA back in the sixties but today this type of behavior feels natural to all those in power. Liberté, égalité, fraternité.
Director: Romain Gavras
Writers: Elias Belkeddar, Romain Gavras, Ladj Ly
Cast: Dali Benssalah, Sami Slimane, Anthony Bajon, Ouassini Embarek, Alexis Manenti
Fun Facts: To film the riot police scene featuring Jerome, the production used the biggest camera crane in Europe that was put on top of a crop harvester.
IMDb Link: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt15445056/