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Friday, January 7, 2011

Movie Review: A PROPHET

(Un prophète)

You can watch the trailer here

A Prophet is a French film directed by Jacques Audiard that shifts in language from French to Arabic to Corsican. I honestly never knew the difference since I was reading subtitles anyways, so that's neither here nor there. If you know any of those languages, I'm sure you'll be able to pick out the changes.

We're quickly introduced to Malik (Tahar Rahim), a 19-year-old Arab man who has been put into prison after assaulting a police officer. He's about as fresh as they come, innocent in both the ways of the world and the ways of prison life. After a few days in prison, he's noticed by César Luciani (Niels Arestrup), the kingpin of a group of Corsican mafia situated inside the prison. Luciani enlists Malik to kill a snitch who's been put into the prison, and after much practice and patience, Malik does so, effectively proving his way into the Corsican group. From there, he starts to work his way up the ranks, soon earning status as Luciani's right-hand man despite the fact that he's Arab. Malik, with the help of another inmate, also starts to run drugs through the prison and soon becomes quite a big-shot on his own. This leads to a number of altercations with other prisoners as well as with Luciani who has been sending him on his leave days to take care of business on the outside. All the while, Malik is haunted by the ghost of Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi), the man he killed for Luciani early in the film. Over the course of the film, we see Malik's transformation from an illiterate and unknowing boy to a man savvy in the ways of the [prison] world and perhaps the world outside the prison walls.

We're given a great screenplay that never really takes its foot off the gas. Once Malik starts his descent into the ways of the mafia, he never lets up and continues down the path towards an amount of power he probably never could have imagined. At times, the story is over-the-top, giving us the violence of living inside a prison (and also showing us the crimes Malik is ordered to commit while on leave), but at other times, things turn quite subtle, showing Malik's transformation from boy to man. Malik is a very interesting and well-written character, and although I thought the movie stretched on a little bit too long (it runs at over two-and-a-half hours), it still punched home its resolution in the final scene.

I don't think I can say enough about Rahim as our lead because he's utterly fantastic. He takes the audience through every stage of his maturation, and it's done so convincingly that it's almost as though Rahim changed from a boy to a man during the course of filming the movie. We also get a very good performance from Arestrup - he won the French analogue of the Oscar for his supporting role - that helps breathe life to the Corsican mafia which would otherwise have fallen flat. Adel Bencherif also proves a worthy actor in his role as Malik's closest friend.

Although I had some issues with the movie's soundtrack - they inserted a couple of English-language songs that completely took me away from the movie for a few minutes - A Prophet is still a solid entry into the annals of French film as well as crime dramas.

Movie Review Summary:
2 Thumbs Up

Addition to Awards
2010: 1 nomination

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