This Oscar nominated French drama played briefly in my area (Raleigh, N.C.) to small yet very appreciative audiences last spring. It’s now out on DVD and Blu ray so, with hope, it will gain much more appreciation.
A PROPHET (Un prophète) (Dir. Jacques Audiard, 2009)
In this film’s swift opening scenes we are immediately drawn into the dark world of 18-year-old Arab Malik (Tahar Rahim) when he is thrown into prison with a 6 year sentence.
Rahim, after spending the better part of his life in juvenile detention, is told that he’s going to be in with “the big boys now” and finds himself stuck between a rock (the Corsican mafia who rule the joint) and a hard place (the Muslim contingent who want nothing to do with him).
After completing a gruesome task for an elder lifer – the Godfatherly Niels Arestrup - Rahim's power rises in prison to the point in which he can take day passes to oversee the business on the outside.
The film’s storytelling strengths lie in how it posits pivotal characters. With bold white lettering we are introduced to Hichem Yacoubi as an Arab murdered by Rahim early in the film, yet he visits his cell as a haunting reminder throughout the film; Adel Bencherif as a Muslim recovering from testicular cancer who believes highly in rehabilitation, and Mamadou Minte as dangerous drug dealer Latif the Egyptian among deadly others.
Often brutal in a way that may cause some viewers may have to avert their eyes, A PROPHET earns its 2 hours and 35 minute running time with a gripping pace – it’s truly one of the most compelling films of the year.
It’s challenging with its non compromising stance on the futile forum of prison reform and in your face violence, but one can sympathize and cringe with Rahim as he brushes off the insults of “dirty Arab” and tries to assert himself on this treacherous yet unavoidable path.
Not sure if this one would make that noticeable a difference on Blu ray from DVD as it’s a pretty gritty looking movie to begin with, but both versions have deleted scenes and an insightful commentary by from director Audiard, Rahim and co-screenwriter Thomas Bidegain.
In French, Arabic, Corsican with English subtitles. Also available in the Raleigh area at multiple Redbox locations.