A Prophet (Un Prophete) (R18)

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The ViewChristchurch Review

Review byMatthew Turner12/12/2009

Five out of Five stars
Running time: 150 mins

Stunningly directed and superbly written, this is a thoroughly gripping thriller with a terrific central performance from newcomer Tahar Rahim – it's also one of the best films of the year.

What's it all about?
Directed by Jacques Audiard (The Beat That My Heart Skipped), A Prophet stars newcomer Tahar Rahim as Malik el Djebena, a young French-Arab convict who gets six years in a brutal French prison and decides to try and keep his head down. However, his intentions are quickly scuppered when he's taken under the wing of Corsican gang leader Cesar Luciani (Niels Arastrup) and forced to murder a fellow inmate (Hichem Yacoubi).

Malik gets away with the murder thanks to Luciani's control of the prison and he soon becomes a general dogsbody to the Corsican gang, though they barely tolerate his presence. However, over the years, Malik uses the prison system to educate himself and when he's granted periods of leave, he uses his new-found knowledge to set up his own drugs trade, while ostensibly still running errands for Luciani.

The Good
Tahar Rahim (who bears a slight resemblance to The Wire's Aidan Gillen) is terrific as Malik, under-playing it perfectly as befits a character who's essentially keeping his head down and absorbing everything from the sidelines. There's also strong support from Niels Arastrup and from Hichem Yacoubi, whose character repeatedly appears to Malik throughout the film, vicious, gaping neck wound and all (weirdly, they sort of become friends).

Audiard's direction is masterful throughout and he orchestrates some incredibly suspenseful scenes as well as some extremely well edited montage sequences. He also fills the film with delightful little character details, such as the sequence with Malik taking a plane for the first time and opening his mouth when he gets scanned by security.

The Great
With its gripping story of a low-level thug rising through the criminal ranks, A Prophet frequently resembles a sort of French prison version of Goodfellas. The comparisons are extremely apt, because this is as much a gangster thriller as a prison drama and as such, it's worthy of a place alongside the established classics.

Worth seeing?
A Prophet is a brilliantly directed, superbly written and terrifically acted prison drama that is by turns suspenseful, shocking and thoroughly gripping throughout. Unmissable.

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Content updated: 19/04/2019 05:02

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