‘Athena’: A new Netflix movie wants to burn everything down

In the first ten minutes of “Athena,” we see a tense press conference erupt into violence, an attack on a police station by angry youths, and a thrilling race to return stolen property to their urban stronghold. After some breathless action and incredible camera work, as they mount the barricades in victory, the director decides to call it a cut.

Gavras and his cinematographer Matias Boucard have devised an entire tracking shot timeline to kick off this new Netflix thriller, tailor-made to grab viewers by the throat. The opening of “Touch of Evil” is so long that it looks like it could pull your socks up; that makes the raid on “True Detective” look like a walk in the park. It’s an adrenaline shot to the heart and sets an impossible pace. But over the course of 97 relentless and thrilling minutes, this film will be tested.

Karim (played by newcomer Sami Slimane) is grieving the loss of his younger brother, beaten to death by uniformed officers — the third case of police brutality in two months in Athena, an impoverished community on the outskirts of Paris. He wants names but the police deny responsibility. Their brother Abdel (Dali Benssalah, “No Time To Die”) is a soldier calling for peace, and their older brother Koktar (Ouassini Embarek) is a drug trafficker, worried that a riot will be bad for business. Karim, on the other hand, has shown himself ready to lead a generation into battle.

Shortly after the search, the police descend on Athens to deal with the youths. Caught in between are their parents and extended family. The film questions their passivity while asking for sympathy for them, as well as for Jerome (Anthony Bajon), the frightened officer sent into the fray. But mostly we’re channeling Karim’s righteous anger, unconvinced by his brothers’ interventions.

Gavras and co-writers Ladj Ly and Elias Belkeddar tell the story of the siege, which continues almost entirely in Athena’s concrete labyrinth, and is built around several extended reenactments emphasizing the chaos of the clashes and Karim’s unexpected plans. Shot with IMAX cameras, Molotov cocktails and Roman candles set off into the night; masses of bodies fill the corridors, cross the roofs and crash into each other to the sound of a baroque score.

What if the Trojan War took place in a Paris apartment? It might look like this. With its conflicting brothers, mythologized men and epic sense of scale, “Athena” evokes ancient tragedies. However, his pains are rooted today, and are keenly felt. Behind the camera is the cinematic courage of a general; which inevitably draws attention to the art of war that is cinematography itself. The logistics of it all are mind boggling.

“Athena” is in select theaters now and is available on Netflix on September 23rd.

Interview: Romain Gavras, writer-director

Gavras, an alumnus of Kanye West and Jay-Z’s “No Church in the Wild” music videos, is no stranger to capturing an uprising. But he has never done it on this scale; it’s no wonder he cites epics like Francis Ford Coppola’s “Apocalypse Now” and Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran” as inspiration for “Athena.”

“There is no CGI in the film, we do everything for real,” says Gavras. “The planning, oddly enough, was almost military and very detailed to create chaos in front of the camera.”

To hear more from the writer-director, read our full interview.

One to play now: “Saloum”

Renaud Farah, Roger Sallah, Mentor Ba, Yann Gael are on the run "Saloum"

Congolese filmmaker Jean Luc Herbulot presents a lively midnight film about three mercenaries on the run in a remote corner of Senegal. Yann Gael, Roger Sallah and Mentor Ba entertain as tough gunslingers, but their confident attitude is tested when a paranormal enemy threatens them and their gold stash. Herbulot’s meandering neo-western (“Southern,” he calls it) covers a wide range of subjects and the histories of the West African dead in its tight time frame. The specter of colonialism and the exploitation of people and places looms large, offering a dark note. Still, it’s good fun with a vivid imagination and striking visuals.

“Saloum” is available The horror in the usa

One to bookmark for later: “No Bears”

Jafar Panahi, "No Bears"writer, director and protagonist of
Every new Jafar Panahi film feels like a small miracle. The Iranian director has been banned from leaving the country and making films for more than a decade, but he has continued to find a way. In “No Bears,” Panahi plays a version of himself who travels to a border town to remotely direct a film about Turkey. He gets caught up in a local conflict, accused of photographing a couple’s illegal encounter, the woman being promised to another. Meanwhile, his real-life partner in the movie plans an exodus. Edges of all kinds are great. Surprised by the villagers who treat him and his camera with suspicion, and the authorities asking questions, the director considers which place might be the most suitable for him.
Exploring the dangers of observation and the unintended consequences of making art, “No Bears” is a richly layered metafiction, usually self-reflexive and inseparable from its context. Circumstances have made Panahi’s filmmaking an act of dissent. This may be his best and most challenging work of this period. It is also the most important. Panahi was arrested in July and jailed to serve an unserved six-year sentence on charges of “anti-establishment propaganda,” according to Reuters.
At September’s Venice Film Festival, when the film won the Special Jury Prize, an empty seat was reserved for the director after its premiere. “Our fear empowers others,” a character tells the director in “No Bears.” Panahi has shown his courage once again.
“No Bears” has its US premiere New York Film Festival in October