A Prophet Review
Prison films seem to be somewhat of a rare breed these days. While “Escape from Alcatraz” and “Shawshank Redemption” were viewed as great films by many, movies of this genre just don’t appear as frequently as they used to. A French made film called “A Prophet” is one of the more recent installments of this genre and takes a step in changing that.
“A Prophet” is a little different from your average prison tale. There are no positive life lessons here or anything concerning great escapes. This film is based around a young man named Malik (Tahar Rahim), who has been sentenced to six years in prison for assaulting police officers. Knowing no one, Malik is approached by a group of Corsican mobsters to perform a job. Not willing to risk his own men, the Corsican ring leader C?ï¿½sar Luciani (Niels Arestrup) gives him an offer that they won’t allow him to refuse. The options for Malik are simple, if he goes through with it, he gets protection during his stay in prison and if he rejects it, then he won’t make it out of prison.
Being alone, illiterate, and having no other options, Malik reluctantly agrees and receives the protection that was promised to him. During his time in prison, he learns to read by taking classes and picks up some important and valuable lessons about the world of organized crime while hanging around the Corsicans and their boss. We see Malik gain knowledge and experience as he climbs up the ladder and becomes involved in criminal activity. Whether its drugs, bribery, gambling, or even murder, Malik seems to be getting his hands in a bit of everything.
Using a different approach than the usual mafia or prison films, it shows the development of a man who never actually thought he’d be involved in organized crime. He becomes bigger and more powerful over time and becomes more than he thought he could be in that world. They do a good job illustrating this, how he got there, and the implications this has on everyone else around him. Even though it’s obvious to see what the main story is, there’s one side story that contains an interesting dynamic that involves Malik and Luciani. It truly stands out and helps to depict the purpose of the film. Almost everything seems to mesh together and that helps to set a satisfactory standard for the rest of the movie.
“A Prophet” gives you a lot of different things, but also manages to stay on a straight course as far as the plot is concerned. It’s not very violent, but the violence it contains is brutal and always relevant to the main point of the movie. For its story, its purposeful, but infrequent violence, and characters, this is a film that mature fans of mobster and prison films should be able to enjoy.
Director: Jacques Audiard
Film Length: 155 minutes
Release Date: August 26, 2009 (France)
Distributor: UGC Distribution