‘Athena’ ending explained: Who was responsible for Karim’s death? Why had Abdel given up?

In the first ten minutes, “Athena” establishes a sense of urgency. French suburbs were thrown into turmoil when a 13-year-old boy lost his life to police brutality. “Athena” is a politically charged movie 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 faith in authority. Instead, he formed a rebel army to force the police to act. Moktar was the stepbrother who was not bothered by the incident. He only cared about his drug business, which was affected by the riots at Athena’s estate. With long takes, Romain Gavras marks the pulse of the film. A loss derived from racism cannot be faced calmly, but can an “eye for an eye” be the solution? In an interview with “The Guardian”, Romain Gavras admits that his film is pessimistic. There is a sense of hopelessness in the ruined world of “Athena”.

spoilers ahead


‘Athena’ Plot Summary: What Is The Movie About?

In the eleven-minute-long first take, Abdel demands police action, while his brother, Karim, lights a Molotov cocktail and interrupts the public gathering. The rebel army, with their faces covered, entered the police station and seized all the weapons within their reach. With fireworks and Molotov cocktails, the gang was able to strike fear into the police and returned to their property, shouting their “Athena” war cry. Athena was the name of the farm inhabited by immigrants. The young blood wanted revenge and action at all costs. They were not afraid of repercussions. This was the time for the rebels to rise up, and the war cry shouted in unison was intoxicating. Karim wandered the estate, giving instructions to his team. Even before he could mourn the death of his little brother, Karim had taken on the challenge of leading an army. His eyes sad and his body exhausted, Karim continued to fight. He believed that his uprising would bring justice to his brother.

Abdel helped evacuate the elderly and those who were against violence. Many blamed his family for the unrest, but Abdel remained calm and focused on the evacuation. He rushed to find his mother at his apartment and was forced to attend a prayer service for his brother. As the violence escalated, he ordered everyone to leave the premises. In the middle 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 hurt 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 break down. But his sadness was soon overcome by rage, and he stormed out of his apartment and attacked the police. While the two brothers were dealing with the trouble part of it, Moktar was digging a hole to leave Athena. He contacted police officers who were on good terms with him and hoped they would rescue him. He knew that, either way, his business would suffer while he was inside Athena’s property. Karim realized that they had to come up with a better strategy, since interruption alone would not bring justice. He planned to seize a policeman and use him to pressure the authorities. Karim and the angry rioters were growing impatient. They needed an answer, they needed the names of the perpetrators and they were ready to go to extreme measures to find them.


‘Athena’ ending explained: Who was responsible for Karim’s death? Why had Abdel given up?

Amid fire and smoke, a policeman stays behind at the Athena estate. Jerome was anxious from the moment he traveled to the site of the mutiny. He tried to get rid of the nail polish his four-year-old son had lovingly applied. In the bleakness of the situation, the colored nails were a reminder of a happier time he spent with his family. After catching the policeman, the rioters punished him. The police were trying to get information from Abdel. Since he was on the side of law and order, they believed he could help them get onto the property and control the situation. Although Abdel did not believe in Karim’s method, he knew that the police would come 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 escape with him when Karim found them. She hugged Karim and asked him to accompany her to a safer place. He explained that the war would only result in destruction and that they would never get his brother back from him no matter what. But Karim was not convinced. He called Abdel a traitor and a puppet of the authorities. It was an embarrassment to his community. Abdel walked away with Jerome, and soon Karim and his men attacked the two of them, but managed to escape to Moktar’s place. Moktar agreed to help the two. He realized that by saving the policeman, he could easily leave Athena. He called his contacts at the police and asked them to rescue Jerome. Karim decided to speak out even if it resulted in the death of his brothers. With a Molotov in hand, he tried to blackmail them into handing over Jerome. Moktar informed Abdel that the police were on their way, but Abdel worried that they might hurt Karim in the process. Moktar assured him that the policemen would not mess with him, but it turned out that the police force lined up and shot Karim as he was about to charge them with Molotov. They didn’t go into the building to save Jerome. Everything 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 that his brother had started. He had lost 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 policemen who killed Karim, but a group of crime squads that tried to carry out an intervention. It could have been Moktar who contacted the crime squad, or the policemen he contacted could have also informed the group. Abdel refused to listen to any explanation. He wanted the names of those responsible for Idir’s death. The police confirmed that they were not responsible for his death; some right-wing extremists misbehaved while wearing police uniforms. They still did not have the names of the criminals.

Abdel was beyond reason now. He didn’t care about the facts. He wanted justice, and he wanted it soon. He decided to use Sebastien for his cause. The man appeared to be a retired bomber who took the opportunity and decided to use all the gas cylinders present on the farm to bomb the property. The situation had escalated beyond Abdel’s control. The rioters were alarmed by Sebastien’s madness and decided to leave the premises and turn themselves in to the police. Jerome joined the rioters and left the property. He was in a numb state when he turned himself in to the 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. The hope of justice was long gone. He rested in a room while the news on television announced that a civil war had started in France. He awaited his death as the dust from the building covered his body. As the camera pans away from Abdel and the building, we see the building collapse 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 was fighting for visibility and justice for those who lost their lives as a result of anti-Muslim racism. The excitement of forming his army and uniting for a cause was what drove them, but in the end, it all came crashing down. We live in a time when the world does not stop, even when countries are at war. Therefore, the ending seemed appropriate. Idir’s death would probably be forgotten and all that would be left would be anger and hatred. Sebastien taking over symbolizes how hate mongers join a cause with no intention of solving it. His motto is to spread hate and cause destruction.


In conclusion

France has been in the news for racist activities several times. The rise of right-wing extremism has made the situation even worse. Fear of immigrants taking over the country and disrupting French culture is what led to the targeted attacks and harassment. “Athena” brings up the immigrant ghettos, where the elderly were against attacking the police, knowing they would lose the livelihood they had built after years of hard work, but the young refused to bow down and demanded action. The “Us” versus “Them” discussion is incorporated into the film in the form of a television debate. It’s not just the visuals that captivate in “Athena”, but also the background score that combines to form a mesmerizing clock.


“Athena” is a 2022 Drama Thriller film directed by Romain Gavras.

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