STARRING: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Reda Kateb, Adel Bencherif, Hichem Yacoubi, Jean-Philippe Ricci, Gilles Cohen, Pierre Leccia, Antoine Basler, Leïla Bekhti, Foued Nassah, Jean-Emmanuel Pagni, Frédéric Graziani and Slimane Dazi
EARNED (Worldwide): $17.8m
AWARDS: 1 BAFTA (Best Film Not In The English Language)
A young Arab man is sent to a French prison where he becomes a mafia kingpin.
A Prophet focuses on an illiterate nineteen-year-old French youth of Algerian descent named Malik El Djebena being sent to Brécourt prison to serve a six year sentence. Alone, broke and unprotected in the prison environment, filled with violence and corruption as the prison is divided by the Corsican and Muslim gangs, until one day Corsican mobster César Luciani tells him that he can provide support and protection….if he took someones life.
A Prophet is a terrific take on the prison film genre, focusing on one characters journey from a young, naive that has events beyond his control shape and make him into the calculated, adult criminal that we witness by the films end. The setting of the prison and the violence that takes place isn’t glossed or polished over. It’s messy, brutal and clumsy, all with of which can be told in the scene where Malik has to take another prisoners life in order to guarantee his own safety. From here on we see the transformation of Malik as at first he’s made an outsider by the Corsican and by this he simply observes, looks for angles and eventually in time becomes César’s confidant. A Prophet is a terrific character study of survivalism in a cruel environment, particularly when we really don’t know what crime Malik has committed to end up there (there’s theories), great direction by Jacques Audiard and a memorable performance by Tahar Rahim, with this performance alone I should really check out more of his work.
FAVOURITE SCENE: Malik is going through security at the airport and in a very quick moment he sticks his tongue out, in relation to what he normally would do in prison by force of habit. It’s a very quick scene in a long film but the most memorable.
FAVOURITE QUOTE: ‘There is no risk. Staying here is the only risk.’ – César Luciani
DID YOU KNOW?: To ensure the authenticity of the prison experience, Jacques Audiard hired former convicts as advisers and extras.