Athena is the latest Netflix movie of the week, and it comes with a fury that is not often seen on screen. The film debuted at this year’s Venice Film Festival, and it got very good impressions. With good reason, the director, Romain Gavras, has a powerful movie under his belt. A film that more than anything else has a sort of chaotic energy that feels very rare nowadays. The best part is that all this chaotic energy is easy to see thanks to a fantastic set of continuous one-shots that let the action breathe and flow effortlessly.
The movie is quite intense, and it has one of the best cinematic intros in recent memory. It is truly fantastic. However, as was expected, the film cannot handle this intensity throughout the entirety of its running time so, as the first half of the film sets on the horizon, so does the energy of the movie. It all fits with the events depicted in the movie, and it all fits with the story. But, either way, the fact remains that the second half is not as gripping as the first, and the story goes in weird directions as well.
The following paragraphs contain spoilers for Athena. Read at your own risk.
What Is The Reason For The Riot?
The begins with the introduction of Abdel, a soldier in the French Army. Abdel is speaking to the press, and he announces that this little brother has been declared dead. At this point, we don’t know the reasons for the death or who committed it. That doesn’t matter at this point. At the same time, we are introduced to Karim, Abdel’s younger brother, who interrupts the press junket by throwing a Molotov bomb into the police department. Karim and his followers get inside the precinct and steal a locker with guns and leave everything destroyed.
Karim and his followers return to Athena, a building block where the majority of the population is of Muslim descent. It is revealed at this point that Karim and his followers are taking the building and are waiting for the police to arrive to retaliate after their attack on the precinct. It is also explained that the reason for the riot is that their little brother was killed by policemen. Karim and the rest of the youth that follow him are ready to go to war. Abdel arrives at Athena and tries to calm things down, but he is unable to do it.
In a weird movement from the script, Abdel and another member of the community hid a man named Sebastien. It is not clear who Sebastien is, but it seems like he has a mental condition of sorts. They hid him in a local school and shut the doors afterward. Abdel helps the families to evacuate the building because the worst is yet to come. During the escape, he says goodbye to his mother and promises that he will take care of him and Karim. Sadly, he is arrested as one of the policemen hits another civilian and a fight breaks out.
Can Karim Find Justice For His Dead Little Brother?
Things escalate very quickly, with the police arriving at Athena. They get into their riot suits and prepare to take the building block. However, the youth are prepared, and they know their home better than anyone else. They have managed to close all the entries and the entire thing has become a fight. It is all pretty intense to see. Karim is hurt by some fireworks, and he goes home to cure his wounds. There, on the television, the news is saying that the police are not responsible for their little brother’s death. They say that true criminals are members of an alt-right group. Karim turns off the television.
Meanwhile, the police try to break through the barricades, but they cannot do much with just shields and sticks. They are pushed back by the youth, and a small group of police gets surrounded by the rioters. One of them, Jerome, manages to escape. However, Karim captures him easily. Karim, then, sends a video with Jerome as a hostage. Karim demands that those responsible for his brother’s death be captured and brought to justice with life sentences. The police negotiator releases Abdel and sends him to rescue Jerome and talk Karim down from continuing.
Abdel arrives at where Jerome is and takes him with him, but Karim follows him. Abdel then goes looking for his half-brother, Mokhtar, to find refuge. Mokhtar, a drug dealer, has camped inside a store and has weapons with him. Karim arrives and promises that he will burn the store if Abdel doesn’t give him Jerome. Some policemen arrive and kill Karim, who ends up burning with his own Molotov. Abdel kills Mokhtar in anger and takes control of the situation. He releases Sebastien, who seems to be a bomb-builder. Sebastien begins preparing the building for a big explosion.
In the end, Abdel loses control of the situation. The youth goes out and is arrested by the police. Abdel is left behind, and he stays in the building. The police enter the building, and then it explodes, killing counters-officers and Abdel in the process. In the end, a group of people kills Abdel’s little brother. We follow him, and it is revealed that they are Neo-Nazis. The police really weren’t responsible for the little kid’s death.