A Prophet (Un prophete) Reviews
"A Prophet" follows the life of Malik (Tahar Rahim), a young Frenchman of Arab descent, who enters prison as an outsider and is shaped into an adult criminal from the inside. He seems an unlikely protagonist for a prison movie and he's behind bars for unclear reasons. He claims he's innocent, although it doesn't matter. Prison efficiently strips him of privacy and self-respect, and becomes a pawn to the Corsican gang that controls everything behind bars through violence and bribes. This gang is run by Cesar Luciani (Niels Arestrup), a man who has a commanding presence, and walks everywhere followed by bodyguards. His spies see all that happens. He gives an order, and it is followed out.
There is a prisoner there (Hichem Yacoubi) who Cesar wants killed. This man must not live to testify. Malik is instructed by Cesar's lieutenant how to conceal a razor blade in his mouth and slit the man's throat. It is very simple. If Malik doesn't do this, he will die. When Malik seeks help from the warden, he quickly finds out that Cesar calls the shots in this prison. Malik has never killed anyone before and struggles with the notion, and carrying out the act--killing someone up close, turns into a bloody skirmish, everything is covered in blood. Malik escapes only because Cesar has had the wing cleared out.
In the years to come, Malik transforms before our very eyes. He learns how to read, how to observe others, how to measure motives and size people up, how to devise strategy, and how to rise in the ranks. Malik bides his time, keeping a low profile and his ears open, to create a life for himself once he serves out this sentence.
Jacques Audiard effortlessly creates a landscape with complicated rules and creating characters that are compelling and empathetic, even as they commit heinous acts. Rahim perfectly telegraphs his maturation from petty thief to major player in a brilliant performance that relies much less on words, than the way he carries himself and his body language. He doesn't need to tell us that's he's taking charge of the prison, or surpassing Cesar, we just watch it happen. The film's brutal, realistic violence is not for the faint for heart, but fans of raw, gripping cinema shouldn't be put off; "A Prophet" demands to be seen. Nominee of 2009 Academy Award Nominee for Best Foreign Language Film and winner of London Film Critics Award for Best Picture of the Year.
A prophet is one of the better French films, slow yet not as drowsy as the others from the country. It's got good acting overall, a good colour scheme and a realistic gangster story in it's backdrop.
It deserves to be regarded as a classic.