Athena review: Netflix’s stunning antifa action drama brings fire

Athena, the latest film from music video director Romain Gavras, is a pony or trick-or-treater, but that trick is officially so dazzling that the film offers an enchanting experience. Consisting of several lengthy, labyrinthine sequences created by traditionally edited scenes, the film follows three French-Algerian brothers in Paris – young and middle-aged adults from different walks of life. each other – thrown into turmoil right after a heartbreaking family tragedy.

Their youngest brother, a child named Idir, was murdered, and the perpetrator caught on camera appeared to be French police. The oldest brother, Moktar (Ouassini Embarek), is a drug and weapons dealer who only cares about himself. Middle brother Abdel (Dali Benssalah) is a professional soldier who specializes in keeping order. The most flammable puzzle piece, however, is the youngest surviving brother, Karim (Sami Slimane), a charismatic leader with dreary sunken eyes who sparks a riot in his housing project. He quickly spread throughout the city.

The film’s introductory sequence sets the stage for a variety of dramatic scenes of state violence and anti-fascist uprisings, each of which begins as a personal portrait before pulling out to reveal another. bigger picture. It opens during a strict police press conference about the murder of Idir, where Abdel happens to be present and in uniform. The scene flared up when a group of angry protesters looted a Molotov cocktail at the podium. The next uninterrupted process lasted more than 10 minutes.

Police flood the streets of Paris as riots break out in Athena

Photo: Netflix

Though the sequence begins in a highly disinfected setting, it quickly explodes into a riot of whites, following Karim and dozens of other black-clad protesters as they don’t just use guns. commanders and police cars, but also drove them through the city in high-octane pursuit, back to the makeshift fortress they had built at the Athena housing complex (named, fittingly, for the goddess) Olympian strategy).

This eruption seems to have happened a long time ago. Instead of rereading and reinterpreting the surrounding political situation – as in the United States, the police killing of civilians and the ensuing protests dominated the headlines in France for years – Athena opens in a choking climax that lasts almost all of its 97 minutes. What we are witnessing when watching Athena was the beginning of an inevitable war.

Gavras captures it with cranes, drones, and logic-challenging techniques, and frames it with hundreds and hundreds of extras in twisty and giant patterns. It’s tactile, but ethereal. The camera moves between vehicles, captures them from across the street like passing a carriage, then goes up beside them and dives inside them with the characters, before backing out to capture the scale whirlwind of uproar.

Gavras’ action scene moves from one moment of violent protest to the next at breakneck speed, hinting at how widespread this frenzy is by the time the film begins. But the staging of this opening scene also serves a second function. It gives us a land, a detailed sense not only of the visual and emotional textures of the film, but also of the streets between the police station and Athena, where countless onlookers line the streets. the roof and cheers Karim, and where the rest of the story is set to unfold. Not long after, neighboring housing projects declared their allegiance to Athena, as did the kingdoms involved in the war in Middle-earth.

A silhouette of a person holding a fiery Molotov cocktail stands on the streets of Athena in Paris

Photo: Netflix

Rarely does a movie emulate the thrill of a roller coaster ride, with adrenaline-inducing peaks and valleys, carefully reset before each subsequent drop. Abdel and Karim led the charge of rebellion, as the tides of SWAT teams penetrated the riot-filled fortified buildings. Meanwhile, their half-brother Moktar weaves in and out of both conspiracies, protecting his business interests first, when he can support both. The three brothers represent aspects of French society in microcosm: the oppressor, the oppressed, and money-making third parties, who benefit in some way, regardless of their involvement. or not. Their symbolism results in a streamlined narrative that avoids the need to overstate who, what, or why.

The story is simple, but there is a danger of being also homely. By throwing the audience into confusion, Gavras obscures some of the simpler emotional material. Athena focuses on a brutal killing, and the ensuing plot serves as an outward exaggeration of the pain that, after so many state-sanctioned executions, has become untenable. Okay. But the audience never got a chance to brood over this pain, or really feel it through the brothers’ eyes. Although the film occasionally slows down to depict the trio’s gentle moments of mourning in the Muslim community (including a fleeting encounter with the brothers’ mother), there’s nothing wrong with that. pausing to get to know the brethren beyond their prescribed role is symbolic of greater unrest.

That said, while the film rarely dramatizes their emotional wounds, this iconic depiction also represents the very aesthetic approach Gavras has employed throughout his career. me. While Gavras has implemented two other narrative features (Our day will come and The world is yours), he is best known for his brilliant music videos, especially “Born free“Shows military police systematically hunting redheads in a fictional racist scenario and “by Jay-Z and Kanye West”There is no church in natureAmong them are some of the most prominent images of the fiery protest in the mass media.

Athena serves as a feature version of the visual fixes in those videos – compressed stories where brutal state violence is a pre-existing condition for which the root diagnoses are a Late thinking, but the final symptoms that Gavras discovers in clear, visceral color. (The film is, in more subtle ways, the successor to Gavras’ video for “Signature“By late friend DJ Mehdi, a vivid depiction of a suburban community where cameras capture details and come alive by moving through communal spaces.)

Athena arguably a film of an overzealous style, with the amount of time and attention it devotes to the personal drama underpinning its politics. But in Gavras’ hands, style is also essence, with restrained classicism giving way to a baroque system as each long stride accelerates. Scenes are constructed in ways that feel narratively unavoidable and visually prophetic. Gavras and cinematographer Matias Boucard seem to be uncovering hidden aspects of these police-protester clashes through movement – not just subject movement, but machine movement as well. The photo tilts and rotates as if to capture every possible advantage. Speed ​​the movie up even more, and you’ll enjoy something of a cubist approach, with realistic dimensions and perspectives that overlap between all the pandemics.

A large group of protesters stood on top of a building overlooking Athena

Photo: Netflix

The rehearsed nature of each stretch isn’t just a neat gimmick, the way it’s supposed to be Sam Mendes’ 1917, a war film whose design fakes a scene that loses sight of the characters’ surroundings, causing its tension to melt away. Instead, the choreography in Athena is its own symphony, placing the living, breathing details of its fraternal environment into its crosshairs in turn, as it builds to moments of darkness quickly consumed by the flames. . Thick smoke and flying embers quickly became its default language, as if it were a paced remix by Sergei Bondarchuk War and peace. Music of Gavras .’s own collaborative project Gener8ion, which combines explosive Hans Zimmer-esque percussion with operatic vocals in a fixed state of crescendo. Music, like visuals, rarely stops moving or progressing, but around every corner there is some new and surprising confrontation, so it never loses its appeal.

Gavras shot Athena with IMAX cameras, this makes everything more than ripe for viewing as a first and foremost visual spectacle. (Unfortunately, its theatrical release is limited to a week on one screen in New York.) That said, watching on the small screen on Netflix is ​​still potentially highly emotional. , as another key player is filmmaker Ladj Ly, who co-wrote Athena with Gavras and producer Elias Belkeddar. Li is the director of the year 2019 Miserablesa modern retelling of the Victor Hugo novel that was nominated for Best International Feature Film at the 92nd Academy Awards. Athenait reduced tensions between the French police and communities of color, and similarly, it led to climactic eruptions.

He undertakes Miserables is a great movie and while his approach is more measured (and arguably more nuanced) AthenaCombining Ly’s focus on community with Gavras’ bold, minute-by-minute style resulted in some quiet moments. These put an end to the turmoil, allowing for brief but volatile periods of respite. Before the audience knows it, the characters are back in the fray, into a chaotic world that threatens to destroy them. And their own uncontrollable rage is just as dangerous. With AthenaGavras turns that anger into moments that are technically vivid, to the point where they also become emotionally agitated.

Athena streaming on Netflix starting September 23.

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