Athena, the latest film from music video director Romain Gavras, is a one-trick pony, but that trick is so formally dazzling that the movie is an enrapturing experience. Composed of several lengthy, labyrinthine takes spaced out by traditionally edited scenes, it follows three French-Algerian brothers in Paris — young and middle-aged adults from different walks of life — thrown into disarray in the immediate aftermath of a harrowing family tragedy.
Their youngest sibling, a child named Idir, has been murdered, and the culprits caught on camera appear to be French police. The oldest brother, Moktar (Ouassini Embarek), is a drug and weapons trafficker who only looks out for himself. Middle brother Abdel (Dali Benssalah) is a career soldier dedicated to keeping order. The most flammable piece of the puzzle, however, is the youngest surviving brother, Karim (Sami Slimane), a charismatic leader with mournful, sunken eyes, who sparks a riot in his housing project that quickly spreads across the city.
The film’s introductory sequence sets the stage for numerous impressive tableaus of state violence and anti-fascist uprising, each of which begins as a personal portrait before pulling out to reveal a bigger picture. It opens during a stilted police press conference about Idir’s killing, where Abdel happens to be present and in uniform. The scene ignites when a group of angry demonstrators lobs a Molotov cocktail at the pulpit. The subsequent unbroken take lasts more than 10 minutes.
Though the sequence begins in a highly sterilized setting, it rapidly explodes into white-knuckle chaos, following Karim and dozens of other black-clad protesters as they not only commandeer guns and police vehicles, but drive them across the city inRead more on polygon.com