A Prophet (Un prophete) - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

A Prophet (Un prophete) Reviews

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Super Reviewer
March 6, 2010
A gripping French gangster film that depicts the many brutal changes that a man can go through after entering prison, and the 19-year-old Arab-Corsican delinquent who slowly learns to become a murderer is played with an impressive intensity by Tahar Rahim.
Super Reviewer
July 22, 2014
An illiterate half-Arab, half-Corsican serves a prison sentence and rises to become a mob leader.
This film is mediocre Martin Scorsese -- wait, it's not directed by Scorsese? Shocking! Then I guess this film is mediocre imitation Scorsese. It dark, depressing, virile, and remarkably violent. I make the Scorsese joke because films like Goodfellas and Casino achieve an impossible ethical feat: they make being a mobster seem cool; they make us say, "Gee, if I were a mobster, I'd be that cool, dressing in sherbet-colored suits." And A Prophet wants us to make the same type of ethical leap: they want us to sympathize with a character who goes through a profound ethical transformation from doe-eyed innocent to cold-blooded killer. But unlike the charming Ace Rothstein, Malik doesn't inspire, intrigue, or charm.
The film's portrayal of Muslim fundamentalism doesn't get a lot of traction and its aim isn't that clear to me.
Overall, Scorsese has done better - wait, are you sure he didn't direct this?
Super Reviewer
July 17, 2013
A morally complex and riveting study of the power struggle within the confines of prison.
Super Reviewer
February 24, 2013
DIrector Jacques Audiard constructs a rather thoughtful look at power and curruption and how addictive the two can be. Rahim plays a young man sent to prison who is soon dragged into a world of violence and crime as he is forced to commit crimes in order to be protected. It's a brutal double edged sword (or razorblade) as each action may make him protected, but it also creates new enemies. A Prophet charts his rise, fall, rise, and domination of the crime world from inside a tiny cell. The violence is fast and brutal, but we can see the gradual decline in Rahim's morals, making it a relatable account. A sense of mediation is added to a fairly worn genre, as Rahim is haunted by visions from his past pointing him towards his future. Is it madness? Or is Rahim a genuine prophet? The film leaves us with questions, but questions about ourselves and our own beliefs. It's so great to see a crime film that can seduce its audience, but doesn't glorify crime.
Super Reviewer
½ March 14, 2010
A young French-Arab offender rises through the ranks of the prison hierarchy to become a drug runner and enforcer for Corsican mobsters by playing both sides of the racial divide. This highly effective and intelligent prison drama by auteur Jacques Audiard is an extremely gritty examination of a young man who has no control of his own life and haunted by the murder he was forced to commit to prove his loyalty to the criminals he is unwillingly allied to. The performances are all top notch but it is Tahar Rahim's superb central performance that draws you into this grim and seedy world that shows crime as far from a glamorous activity, rather a ruthless dog eat dog crucible of ugly, vicious men perpetrating ugly, vicious acts. The DVD cover is plastered with quotes from lazy reviewers comparing it to Scarface and The Godfather, but A Prophet has little in common with those films; its tone and style for me was rather more reminiscent of Nicolas Winding Refn's Pusher trilogy. It's simply a smart, well directed and brilliantly performed prison bound drama that will probably be a little too dark for some tastes but is one of the best examples of its kind for many years.
Super Reviewer
June 14, 2011
The first 30 minutes is so marvelously orchestrated. The rest of the movie doesn't capture the same tension but it is still an incredibly rich and engaging movie. Gritty, riveting, and powerful, you'll be thinking about this movie, weeks after watching it.
Super Reviewer
September 10, 2011
A Prophet is a crime drama thriller vividly featuring a hard-fought survival and position in power at a prison caste system in fine and original detail. Surpassing of conventions that aggressively underscores the dynamics of power, politics, spirituality, and gang economics and culture, A Prophet is a rare masterpiece of its genre that leaves an arresting impression.
Super Reviewer
March 25, 2010
It was incredible story as director Jacques Audiard is in love with the promise and potential of the crime thriller genre.
As small-time teen crim Malik, Tahar Rahim shifts from wary tough-nut to keen student to aloof enigma in the furrow of a brow. It's a masterful performance but it has to be, as Audiard's roving camera never leaves him. Regarded as a dirty Arab by the Corsican cons and a greasy Corsican by the Arab inmates, Malik is our guide through the nightmare labyrinth of the French penal system and its network of warring tribes.
Characters introduced with chapterised freeze-frames and cool intertitles are passed over or forgotten about (most unforgivably, fellow inmate Reyeb himself), while bigger ideas like Malik's ability to see into the future (the prophecies of the title) and his status as a hero within the narrative just seem confused.
Super Reviewer
May 12, 2011
It's nice to see a crime drama/prison film not made by or in the United States. That's what this is: a French film about an Arab criminal who goes to prison with nothing, and leaves as the king of a criminal empire. Great rags to riches story with a new twist on things. That's pretty much the plot, plain and simple.

This film isn't about plot though, but is instead a character study which gets into the heads of the characters, and also explores the French prison system, and the dynamics between the ethnic groups housed within, specifically the two main factions: the Corsicans (the long time power holders among the prisoners), and the Muslims, the up and comers.

The film's protagonist Malik is Arab, and when he enters prison, he is 19 and iliterate. He becomes a pawn of the Corsican leader, but soon gets his own plan into motion. The film pretty much sticks to reality ,save for some odd scenes where Malik is visited by the ghost of a guy he was forced to kill. These scenes arwen't bad, but with the way they are handled, they aren't really used to their full potential, and seem like they'd be better off cut out of things.

I liked how, even though familiar beats are hit, the film isn't completely formulaic or predictable. Also, there's some really interesting (and cool) music selections. The cinematography is good too. This film though, is all about the characters, so the performances are where it's really at. Tahar Rahim is great as Malik, and he brings a quiet intenisty and intriguing enigmaticness to things. Niels Arestrup is strong as the brutal, intense Corsican leader, and supporting players like Adel Bencherif are good too.

At roughly 155 minutes, and with a pretty deliberate pace, this film is not for the fidgety. There's violence yes, but this isn't an exploitation film, so it's not wall to wall with it, although it is very graphic and realistic when it comes up. I liked that thios film touched upon the dynamic of ethnic/race relations, and it's cool seeing the penal system of a foreign country, but I wanted more of the former, and am unsure as to how realistically ortrayed the latter is. Still though, this is all some very good stuff, even if the film is merely just really good instead of the masterpiece that some have heralded it to be.
Super Reviewer
December 12, 2010
A very believable, Gritty Prison Drama, sometimes slow moving (and I personally felt I lost a little of the information in the film because of that) but a compelling tale with realistic acting and surroundings etc.

Possibly worth watching twice to make sure the whole story has been digested, but certainly one of the best Prison Dramas ever.
Super Reviewer
½ May 11, 2011
Interesting character study. It's ironic how prison made him a criminal, but I guess nowadays, that isn't too far from the truth. Great movie.
Super Reviewer
March 14, 2011
The story was a bit slow for my taste, but I found it's realistic view on prison life quite interesting.
Super Reviewer
½ January 12, 2011
One of the most epic foreign films since City of God. This film had me glued to the television so that I would not lose anything in translation. Filmed beautifully, and directed very well. The complexity of the characters, and plot development is masterful. If you appreciate great cinema, you will appreciate this film.
Super Reviewer
½ January 9, 2011
Compelling, powerful, beautiful. Full review later.
Super Reviewer
August 8, 2010
Director Jacques Audiard's last criminal outing was "The Beat That My Heart Skipped", a remake of the 1978 film "Fingers", about a petty hood who has dreams of being a concert pianist. This time he tackles the story of a petty hood trying to survive a French correctional facility.
Sent down for six years for an unspecified crime, illiterate French-Arab teen Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) is initiated into the prison's criminal underworld. A fast learner, he soon starts to plot his rapid ascendancy through the violent and brutal hierarchy of his fellow inmates to become a formidable player and slowly builds a criminal empire of his own.
This is an unrelenting and savage look at the French penal system and the visciousness involved in just getting through each day. Hardly ever off screen, it boasts an excellent and charismatic lead performance from Tahar Rahim as the young inauspicious protaganist. He's entirely convincing in his tranformation and growth from nervous petty criminal to confident and brutal mastermind and is aided with fine support from Niels Arestrup as his menacing patriarchal boss. The problem I found with it though, was it's length. At well over 2 hours, the rigourousness is relentless and despite it magnificently capturing the grim surroundings of the prison, it utimately is confined - for most of the film - like it's characters and unable to offer anything new from it's concrete hell, that hasn't already been done before. I also struggled to see the point of Malik's prophetic gift. It gave no explanation for his sporadic prophetic visions and added very little to the story - despite it also assuming the title of the film. It could quite easily have been left out altogether. However, these are minor gripes and I probably wouldn't mention them if this film wasn't being hailed as a masterpiece. It's not, but it's still a film of real quality and packed full of tense, dangerous and claustraphobic moments.
Despite feeling like I was doing a little time myself towards the end, this is still a very accomplished and ferocious crime film.
Super Reviewer
October 13, 2010
A Prophet is a beautifully textured and hued movie trapped inside a dull genre. Audiard attempts to circumvent some of the obvious challenges of making a prison film with vague supernatural touches to offset the bleakness and by giving Malik occasional "outside days" where he's free to run around and traffic drugs, and these touches do liven the proceedings considerably. The movie's always at its most exciting when Malik has escaped the prison, largely because that's the only time it ever seems to break from unavoidable cliche. The tale is incontrovertibly absorbing, a big chunk of tautly-written formula done both properly and with great artistry, but after all is said and done the cumulative effects of what Malik endures seem awfully expected.

My other reservation with A Prophet is with Malik himself. He's a complete charismatic black hole. Though he isn't necessarily without personality characteristics, as evidenced by a subtle drive to learn and improve and a not-no-subtle mean streak, his stylistic illiteracy doesn't really seem to jive with the occasional artsy flourishes of the rest of the film. The viewer's eye strays toward the politics of the prison versus the young boy maneuvering through them, simply because the former is that much more alive. Malik's a boring man, which is mostly a curse, but also creates some interesting tensions throughout the film. His lack of character is an intentional choice meant to supplant him into the ranks of the Corsicans to move the plot forward. Seen but not heard, his implied promotions from "errand bitch" to "drug runner" to "honorary Corsican kingpin" feel surprisingly organic, largely because he barely seems aware of them himself, let alone enough to comment on them. Tahar Rahim's performance is great, not self-congratulatory and modest to his castmates; he throws just enough illumination on his very few vulnerable or clever moments, not overdoing or underdoing them. He's a very conscientious, smart actor, and really the reason why this character isn't a complete failure. I think he could have been more interesting, but through no fault of Rahim's own.

Frankly, that's how I feel about the whole movie - it's a more-than-competent treatment of material that doesn't always shine. Perhaps I was expecting something a little more original, or even something more formally unusual, but what I got was a rock-solid prison flick. Not a versatile genre, but I can recognize its value; honestly, though, there's nothing here that The Shawshank Redemption didn't cover, albeit in a more squeaky-clean sort of way. They're both worth seeing, but I think that with every incarceration tale I watch the limits of the genre become more and more evident.
The Gandiman
Super Reviewer
½ October 3, 2010
As petty criminal Malik El Djebena (Tahar Rahim) is checked into prison, you anticipate all the
characteristic prison movie conventions - the racial divides, the brutal conditions, the violent clashes - and French film "A Prophet" has all of those.

But over the next 2 hours, "A Prophet" doesn't concern itself with educating about prison life, instead it's a gripping account of the streetwise savviness of Arab Malik El Djebena as he becomes an integral part of the Arab-hating Corsican mafia due to his completion of a violent assignment for them. During the course of Malik's stay in prison, he is reborn and transforms himself into an educated and influential figure. His journey there is a gripping and remarkable one - and makes "A Prophet" terrific.

When the onus of a film's success hinges on the journey of one character it's crucial to get an actor up to the task and Tahar Rahim is a revelation. Rahim's presence commands attention and his superb portrayal draws you in and doesn't let go.

"A Prophet" is a marvelous tale of survival and growth with realistic depictions of violent, racially-charged life in prison. This Academy Award nominee is worthy.
Super Reviewer
½ December 5, 2009
There is no denying that Un Prophet is a masterpiece in just about every way possible, but it really did not leave me feeling or thinking about any specific. Even with that in mind, my only real complaint would be the length. It took me six or seven viewings to make it through the whole thing. Even though I liked the film a lot, this seems like a rather large commitment. In most ways, though, the film is impeccable. The story, characters, acting, style, etc are all great. Despite the length I was never bored. To go back to the begining, the only reason I cannot rave is because I'm not totally sure what to rave about. The film is fascinating, yes; but to what end? Idk, maybe it truly lacked focus or maybe I'm being obtuse. Either way, despite some minor flaws Un Prophet would still be a 'must see' film.
Super Reviewer
½ August 24, 2010
With French, Spanish and Portuguese audio tracks all this movie needed for me was an English audio track. Really good movie... but depending on subtitles is a little to distracting... otherwise - GREAT MOVIE!! Tahar Rahim has a great acting career ahead of him.
Super Reviewer
½ June 26, 2009
some may think this genre played out; they haven't seen this yet. tho the plot is reminiscent of the godfather or goodfellas gone to prison there's still not a dull moment here thanks to a star-making performance by tahar rahim, a guy with only one previous film credit, a bit part in the 2007 horror └ l'intÚrieur. he certainly proves himself this time out, in arabic, corsican and french! the way fate and his own will conspire in his rise from a raw and frightened boy to a man of power and respect makes for a remarkable ride. dream sequences are spooky and wonderfully done. well on his way to a criminal empire, our 'hero' still shows touching signs of humanity, as when he rides in an airplane for the first time and we catch him smiling out the window like a kid. interesting soundtrack, mostly in english, including a country version of mack the knife over the end credits! i'll be looking into this director's previous work for sure.
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