Already in the first ten minutes “Athena” creates a sense of urgency. The French suburbs were thrown into a state of turmoil when a 13-year-old boy lost his life to police brutality. Athena is a politically charged film with a family drama at its core. The three brothers of the deceased had different worldviews. Abdel was a French soldier who had returned from his service in Mali. He continued to believe in the justice system and hoped that the police would punish those responsible for Idir’s death. Karim was the rebellious teenage brother who had lost his faith in authority. Instead, he formed a rebel army to force the police into action. Moktar was the stepbrother who was not bothered by the incident. He only tended to his drug business, which was affected by the riots at the Athena estate. Romain Gavras sets the pulse of the film with long takes. A loss through racism cannot be taken lightly, but can an “eye for an eye” be the solution? In an interview with The Guardian, Romain Gavras admits his film is pessimistic. There is a sense of hopelessness in the crumbling world of Athena.
Athena Plot Summary: What is the movie about?
In the first eleven-minute shot, Abdel calls for police intervention while his brother Karim lights a Molotov cocktail and disrupts the public gathering. The rebel army entered the police station with their faces covered and grabbed whatever weapons they could get their hands on. With fireworks and Molotov cocktails, the gang scared the police and returned to their compound with the slogan “Athena”. Athena was the name of the property inhabited by immigrants. The young blood wanted revenge and action at any cost. They weren’t afraid of the consequences. This was the time for the rebel uprising, and the unanimous war cry was heady. Karim strolled around the property giving instructions to his team. Before he could mourn the death of his little brother, Karim had taken on the challenge of leading an army. With sad eyes and an exhausted body, Karim kept fighting. He believed that their rebellion would bring justice to his brother.
Abdel helped evacuate elderly people and those opposed to the violence. Many blamed his family for the unrest, but Abdel remained calm and focused on the evacuation. He rushed to find his mother at her home and was forced to attend a prayer service for his brother. As the violence escalated, he ordered everyone to leave the premises. In the midst of the crowd, Abdel found his mother. She asked him to take care of Karim as he was emotionally weak. Abdel had a responsibility to protect his brother, stop the violence and seek justice for Idir.
Karim had injured his hands but the physical pain was nothing compared to what he was going through emotionally. He looks at the picture of his little brother in his apartment and for the first time we see him collapse. But his sadness was soon overcome by anger, and he climbed out of his apartment and attacked the police. While the two brothers were dealing with their share of troubles, Moktar was digging a hole to leave Athena. He contacted police officers who got along well with him and hoped they would save him. He knew that as long as he was on the Athena estate, his business would be compromised no matter what. Karim realized they had to come up with a better strategy as disruption alone would not bring justice. He planned to reach a police officer and use them to pressure the authorities. Karim and the angry rioters grew impatient. They needed an answer, they needed the names of the perpetrators, and they were willing to go to extremes to find them.
Athena Ending Explained: Who Was Responsible for Karim’s Death? Why had Abdel given up?
Amid the fire and smoke, a police officer is left behind at the Athena estate. Jerome was concerned from the moment he traveled to the scene of the riots. He was trying to get rid of the nail polish his four-year-old had lovingly applied. In the bleakness of the situation, the brightly colored nails were a reminder of a happier time he’d spent with his family. After catching the policeman, the rioters punished him. The police tried to get information from Abdel. Since he was on the side of law and order, they believed he could help them enter the property and control the situation. Although Abdel didn’t believe in Karim’s method, he knew the police would step in and shoot the rioters. He couldn’t risk his brother’s life. He decided to enter the estate and convince Karim to stop the fight.
He found Jerome and was about to flee with him when Karim found her. He hugged Karim and asked him to accompany him to a safer place. He stated that the war would only lead to destruction and that there was no way they would get their brother back. But Karim wasn’t convinced. He called Abdel a traitor and a puppet of the authorities. He was a disgrace to their community. Abdel walked off with Jerome, and soon Karim and his men attacked the two, but managed to flee to Moktar. Moktar agreed to help the two. He realized that if he saved the policeman, he could easily leave Athena. He called his contacts at the police and asked them to save Jerome. Karim decided to speak out, even if it resulted in his brothers’ deaths. With a Molotov in hand, he tried to blackmail her into handing over Jerome. Moktar informed Abdel that the police were on their way, but Abdel feared they might hurt Karim in the process. Moktar assured him that the cops wouldn’t mess with him, but as it turned out, the police lined up and shot Karim dead when he was about to charge them with Molotov. They didn’t enter the building to save Jerome. It all seemed to be a plan to kill the leader.
Abdel lost control of his emotions. He beat Moktar to death and decided to end the war his brother started. He had lost his faith in law and order, and his situation forced him to fight for the cause and lead the rioters. He negotiated with the police to get the names of the perpetrators in exchange for Jerome’s safety. The police informed him that it was not the police officers who killed Karim, but a group of anti-crime units who tried to intervene. It may have been Moktar who contacted the anti-crime unit, or the police officers he contacted may have informed the group as well. Abdel refused any explanation. He wanted the names of those responsible for the death of Idir. The police officer confirmed that they were not responsible for his death; some right-wing extremists had behaved in police uniform. They did not yet have the names of the perpetrators.
Abdel was beyond all reason now. Facts didn’t interest him. He wanted justice and he wanted it soon. He decided to use Sebastien for their cause. The man appeared to be a retired bomber who took advantage of the opportunity and decided to use all the gas cylinders available on the property to bomb the property. The situation had escalated beyond Abdel’s control. Alarmed by Sebastien’s insanity, the rioters decided to leave the premises and hand themselves in to the police. Jerome joined the rioters and left the property. He was in a state of sedation when he turned himself in to police. Abdel had lost all his brothers; he had lost the will to fight for his survival. Without his family, the war no longer made sense. Hope for justice was long gone. He was resting in a room while the news on television said that a civil war had begun in France. He waited for his death while the dust of the building covered his body. As the camera moves further away from Abdel and the building, we see the building collapsing as a result of a series of cylinder explosions.
In the end, “Athena” is about loss and hopelessness in the postmodern world. Karim’s rebel army fought for visibility and justice for those who lost their lives to anti-Muslim racism. The thrill of forming their army and uniting for a cause drove them on, but it all fell apart in the end. We live in a time when the world does not stand still, even when countries are at war. So the ending seemed appropriate to me. The death of Idir would probably be forgotten and all that would remain would be anger and hate. Sebastien’s taking control symbolizes haters joining in on a cause with no intention of ever solving it. Their motto is to spread hatred and wreak havoc.
France has been in the news several times for racist activities. The rise of right-wing extremism has made the situation even worse. Fear of immigrants taking over the country and disrupting French culture led to targeted attacks and harassment. “Athena” brings forth the immigrant ghettos where the elders opposed attacks on the police because they knew they would lose the livelihood they had built up after years of hard work, but the youth refused to bow, and called for action. The discussion “We” versus “They” is built into the film in the form of a televised debate. With “Athena” not only the optics are captivating, but also the musical accompaniment, which combines to form a captivating clock.
Athena is a 2022 drama thriller movie directed by Romain Gavras.