Thursday 13 July 2023

Athena [2022]

 Romain Gavras demonstrated that he’s his father’s son – his dad being the great Costa-Gavras – with Athena. This rebellious, topical, polemical and vociferously political work, whose affiliation was clearly with defiant underdogs, was made in the tradition of such edgy and violent ‘banlieue films’ – a clear sub-genre within French cinema – as the enormously influential La Haine and, in particular, the thrilling Les Misérables; the latter resemblance wasn’t surprising considering that its screenplay was co-written by Ladj Ly. It kicked-off with an electrifying 11-minute sequence, shot in a bravura single take, that began with a solemn press conference, which spectacularly exploded into a mayhem upon a Molotov cocktail being thrown from the crowd, followed by the robbing of weapons and explosives from a police precinct by a group of guys, and them euphorically fleeing with the loot in a stolen police van. This meticulously orchestrated sequence saw the camera actively moving through crowded spaces, and in and out of a speeding vehicle. The pulsating tempo of the opening salvo, however, went down few notches thereafter, and the characters weren’t delved into enough either in this Shakespearean tragedy with a here-and-now spin and a rousing, albeit tad muddled, political stance. It portrayed the criss-crossing tale of three French-Algerian brothers over the course of a single day – Karim (Sami Slimane), the smouldering leader of a  resistance group of ghettoized young men, who’s decided to start an uprising for the murder of his 13-year-old brother allegedly in a display of police brutality; Abdel (Dali Benssalah), an army guy who’s come back from the front in order to appeal for restraint; and Moktar (Ouassini Embarek), a crazy criminal intent on taking advantage of the madness.

Director: Romain Gavras

Genre: Thriller/Political Thriller

Language: French

Country: France

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