Its subject is timely but its presentation is timeless — it’s a war movie, a family drama, a Greek tragedy.
What are people saying?
What are critics saying?
Within the first few minutes of Athena, it’s clear this is propulsive filmmaking with thematic substance.
Athena effectively taps into the class, racial, and religious angers of modern France, which it sees as a powder keg that’s just waiting for the right spark to explode, but the film’s broad saga of brothers in crisis is so thin and symbolic that any deeper connection to the real world is sacrificed at the altar of intensity. An intensity that resists psychology, muffles sociopolitical context, and eventually swallows itself whole.
While the film’s emphatic style can become draining, and its attention to technique risks overshadowing the interpersonal drama, there’s an operatic grandeur here that won’t quit, giving the constantly escalating violence considerable power.
Especially after the film’s stunning conclusion, Athena is destined to leave jaws on the floor and heart rates significantly elevated long after the credits roll. This is the painful, perilous present tense written in the flash of a smartphone camera and the blaze of a Molotov cocktail.
It’s spectacular and immersive, with a sensational opening. But it gets bogged down in its own one-note, one-tempo uproar and open-ended parkour camerawork – impressive though that is – and suffers from a number of sneaky false-flag get-out clauses that feel like a cop-out.
The result is nothing short of an urban war movie, as charismatic characters decide to do something about the outrage people have been expressing toward law enforcement in the real world.