Saturday, January 09, 2010

A Prophet

Written by: Thomas Bidegain, Jacques Audiard

Directed by: Jacques Audiard

Starring: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup

Rating: 9/10

A Prophet is a gruelling parable of a young no-hoper's rise from nobody to kindpin during a six year prison sentence. This film is an accomplishment in storytelling as well as a gripping thriller.

Giving my adoration of last year's Mesrine films, I think French gangster prison flicks are now officially my new favourite genre. This is just as enjoyable, despite being devoid of any humour. Where Mesrine painted a hero and a lovable rogue, A Prophet is more of a "sink or swim" scenario. The protagonist Malik (Rahim) is a muslim with no friends or family on the outside. He is sentenced to a six year stretch in prison and is soon chosen as a patsy for the Corsican prison mafia to kill a fellow Muslim that they need rid of. In a brutally affecting scene he pulls this off and soon becomes slave to the Corsicans, slave with benefits. He is soon coordinating jobs on the outside for the Corsicans and beginning his own criminal endeavours.

At almost three hours, this is a long film and often difficult to endure. It is brutal, it is nasty, it is full of unlikeable characters and frustrating situations. However, it never stalls, not for one second. This is a beautifully constructed look at prison life and an interesting plot in which a man who has no loyalties and no education is bold enough to learn to take for himself after years of being used.

The central performances are flawless and newcomer Tahar Rahim is a revelation in an extremely difficult role. Introduced as an uneducated, naiive, somewhat ignorant and socially inept loser, Malik slowly proves that his wits are perfectly intact as he uses his job as "slave" to Cesar for form his own connections with big crime bosses on the outside. Rahim, in a role of few words, believably and gradually tranforms from slack-jawed yokel to steely-eyed man of the world right before our disbelieving eyes.

Jacques Audiard proves his skill as a director with a stylish and beautifully-paced drama. Unrelentingly powerful and skilfully woven, this film is a treat to any cinema fan. Not to mention one of the most chilling an brilliantly shot death scenes in recent memory. Highly, highly recommended!

- Charlene Lydon 09/01/10

Watch the trailer here:

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