Directed by: Romain Gavras
Distributed by: Netflix
Written by Alexander Reams
Tracking shots have become somewhat of a gimmick in modern filmmaking, the digital arena has made it easier to imitate the visceral experience of a tracking shot and there are times where filmmakers can use this to their advantage, most recently Sam Mendes’ “1917,” but the opening shot/scene of Romain Gavras’ pseudo-Greek tragedy centered on three brothers takes the tracking shot to new heights. Within 11 minutes Gavras captures a raid/riot on a police station, then a race through the streets of France, ending at the titular “Athena,” a large apartment complex where the majority of the film is spent.
Gavras chooses to focus on three brothers in a triptych storyline. Abdel (Dali Benssalah), a soldier who has recently returned from Mali and still believes in the justice system, his younger brother Karim (Sami Slimane) who has been radicalized by seeing the racism and apparent corruption in his own backyard, and Moktar (Ouassini Embarek), their older stepbrother who is a drug dealer who operates out of Athena. These 3 men are all drawn into this conflict by the killing of their youngest brother, Idir.
Karim is the one leading the riots, Abdel wants to find a peaceful solution to the matter, and Moktar just wants to get out to protect his business. All 3 men are fantastic in their roles, but it’s Slimane who shines as a radicalized teen, his arc is the most emotional and physical, particularly in the opening scene where he leads his militia through the police raid.
Gavras plays with dread through his editing, as the film progresses the long takes are more and more infrequent, but it’s not jarring, as Gavras still employs fluid camerawork. He doesn’t let the audience get too bogged down in one story, a feat that recent French filmmaker Ladj Ly accomplished in “Les Miserables,” who just so happens to be a writer on the film along with Gavras and Elias Belkeddar. This is one of the finest 2022 has had to offer thus far and is a nerve-wracking and thrilling look into the social issues of France done with technical mastery and remarkable performances from it’s three leads.
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