A Prophet (18)

Film

Thrillers

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Time Out rating:

<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>4</span>/5
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Time Out says

Posted: Tue Jan 19 2010

Filmmakers love a good prison. No, scrub that, filmmakers adore a bad prison. You can see why. For writers and directors, the volatile jail is a ready-made theatre, its prisoners and guards with their various conflicts and loyalties all perfect players for a drama that, if it tries hard enough, can reflect life on the outside too.

For French director Jacques Audiard (‘A Self-Made Hero’, ‘The Beat That My Heart Skipped’), a master of the old-school French thriller – ie thrilling and meaningful – his fifth film offers the chance to pull off both a state-of-nation primal scream and a terrific crime flick. He gives us Malik (Tahar Rahim), a French-Arab convict who enters a concrete-and-steel hell to serve a sentence of six years (so we know he can’t have done anything too dreadful). He tries to keep his head down, but this isn’t that sort of place. The ruling bully boys are the Corsican inmates, led by ageing but vicious César (Niels Arestrup), who forces Malik to kill another inmate in a very successful scene that’s one of the most claustrophobic and disturbing episodes I’ve seen in a long while. From here, Malik is César’s vassal, committed to working for him on the inside and, later, using a series of day-release excursions to represent his criminal interests on the outside.

But Malik is a clever individualist – a survivalist even – and at the same time that he learns to read and write, he exploits a friendship with another French-Arab prisoner, now released, to pursue his own drug deals and quietly invest in a power base within the jail. This is a world where partnerships are formed only for a reason, loyalties are fluid, friends barely exist at all. Politically, it’s a cynical film. Hope is absent.

Whether, though, it says anything meaningful about France, I’m not so sure. Malik is an extreme character, so his experience doesn’t reflect the French-Arab dilemma as a whole, even if the point is made about the number of immigrants in French jails and how being sent to prison for a minor offence can snowball into something else entirely. Audiard suggests that being an underdog – socially, racially, economically – in an unfriendly society can lead to desocialisation and anti-social behaviour. But Malik’s story is so wild that it obscures such ideas.

That said, it’s testament to Audiard’s skill at plunging us headfirst into a vicious parallel world that we mostly believe the film’s twisted logic and rituals. Also, his presentation of violence as a profit-and-loss account is effective and mature: while Malik’s initial murder may get him far, we witness nightly visions of his victim coming back to his cell to haunt him. But there are several bite-your-tongue moments. The film is realist in style and mood, but for every five spot-on observations, there is one flight of wild fancy. I’ve seen the film twice and still find baffling an episode in which Malik predicts that a deer will hit a car, thereby suggesting he is a prophet.

But the sheer force of Audiard’s direction can support such enigmas. It forces you, bullies you, persuades you to love his filmmaking style – even if not always to understand his motives.
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Release details

Rated:

18

UK release:

Fri Jan 22, 2010

Duration:

155 mins

Cast and crew

Cast:

Tahar Rahim, Niels Arastrup, Adel Bencherif

Director:

Jacques Audiard

Screenwriter:

Jacques Audiard

Users say

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<strong>Rating: </strong><span class='lf-avgRating'>0</span>/5

Average User Rating

3.8 / 5

Rating Breakdown

  • 5 star:13
  • 4 star:8
  • 3 star:4
  • 2 star:4
  • 1 star:0
LiveReviews|64
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Technoguy

A film with remarkable ambition-a state of the nation film,engaging with sociological reality,a social noir.Calhoun's review omitted mention of the power divide in the prison between Muslims and Corsicans and how the Corsicans dominate the prison hierarchy at first.The initiation fee for survival for Malik is the necessary murder of an Arab who is testifying against the Corsicans.We side with Malik's underdog,his vulnerability.His intelligence,multilinguism helps him rise above the feuding and negotiate between the different ethnic groups,but not escape the violence.The dark undertow is he becomes a mafia boss.The film's use of poetic metaphor,transcendence,the ghost of the murdered man shows how the spirit manifests itself in a barbaric environment.Malik's dream of animals running and his vision of a crash with the deer suggests his greater sensitivity to the spiritual realm.He is jokingly called a 'prophet' by the crime boss.Acting superb,all the cameos,Neils Arestrup as the mlevolent father-figure Malik must escape from.Brilliant cinema.Also the subtext is he moves closer to the muslim side as film progresses.

Technoguy

A film with remarkable ambition-a state of the nation film,engaging with sociological reality,a social noir.Calhoun's review omitted mention of the power divide in the prison between Muslims and Corsicans and how the Corsicans dominate the prison hierarchy at first.The initiation fee for survival for Malik is the necessary murder of an Arab who is testifying against the Corsicans.We side with Malik's underdog,his vulnerability.His intelligence,multilinguism helps him rise above the feuding and negotiate between the different ethnic groups,but not escape the violence.The dark undertow is he becomes a mafia boss.The film's use of poetic metaphor,transcendence,the ghost of the murdered man shows how the spirit manifests itself in a barbaric environment.Malik's dream of animals running and his vision of a crash with the deer suggests his greater sensitivity to the spiritual realm.He is jokingly called a 'prophet' by the crime boss.Acting superb,all the cameos,Neils Arestrup as the mlevolent father-figure Malik must escape from.Brilliant cinema.Also the subtext is he moves closer to the muslim side as film progresses.

Audi

This was an awesome film. To call it a movie about 'prison' or 'crime' is not to do it justice at all. The acting was top-notch, natural and never over-played, all the characters appeared totally plausible and very interesting. Tahar Rahim nailed the character totally and I really hope he acheives all the success he so richly deserves. Despite the lead character's growing power in the movie you always sensed his vulnerability and that he was a little boy in a mean world, just making his way through. Prison scenes were very realistic. The presence of the ghost in the movie was superb and added another layer to the depth of this tale and demonstrated the main character's ocnscience and loneliness, thereby earning him more sympathy from the viewer. I also think the score was great, thankfully it avoided the gangster trappings of US and British cinema and told the story with poignancy, I hope they don't spoil the legacy by making a sequel.

Audi

This was an awesome film. To call it a movie about 'prison' or 'crime' is not to do it justice at all. The acting was top-notch, natural and never over-played, all the characters appeared totally plausible and very interesting. Tahar Rahim nailed the character totally and I really hope he acheives all the success he so richly deserves. Despite the lead character's growing power in the movie you always sensed his vulnerability and that he was a little boy in a mean world, just making his way through. Prison scenes were very realistic. The presence of the ghost in the movie was superb and added another layer to the depth of this tale and demonstrated the main character's ocnscience and loneliness, thereby earning him more sympathy from the viewer. I also think the score was great, thankfully it avoided the gangster trappings of US and British cinema and told the story with poignancy, I hope they don't spoil the legacy by making a sequel.

Daryl sandy

I thought the film wad a complete waste of time even tho the acting was brilliant the atcual strory line was not wot you would except it to be

Daryl sandy

I thought the film wad a complete waste of time even tho the acting was brilliant the atcual strory line was not wot you would except it to be

John Cooper

In many ways this is an excellent film .. . the acting and direction are impressive as is its compelling realism. What a pity, therefore , it is let down by muddled story-telling. Some critics have alluded to a lack of moral direction in the film, but , with its flawed characters and prison setting it is apposite that there should be no moral parameters . Another weakness is the film's occasional lapses into expressionism . . .ie dead people suddenly appearing .. and a pretentious religious subtext which suddenly invades the film at some points ( ie . the references to a Prophet . . . Why is this film called A Prophet .. . . will someone tell me? ) However the performances in the film are psychologically convincing and the direction and photography are especially effective in conveying the brutalisation of the prison world. Use of music was also impressive . . . . . .Although overlong , this is film is worth seeing, but it is not the masterpiece that some critics claim it to be.

John Cooper

In many ways this is an excellent film .. . the acting and direction are impressive as is its compelling realism. What a pity, therefore , it is let down by muddled story-telling. Some critics have alluded to a lack of moral direction in the film, but , with its flawed characters and prison setting it is apposite that there should be no moral parameters . Another weakness is the film's occasional lapses into expressionism . . .ie dead people suddenly appearing .. and a pretentious religious subtext which suddenly invades the film at some points ( ie . the references to a Prophet . . . Why is this film called A Prophet .. . . will someone tell me? ) However the performances in the film are psychologically convincing and the direction and photography are especially effective in conveying the brutalisation of the prison world. Use of music was also impressive . . . . . .Although overlong , this is film is worth seeing, but it is not the masterpiece that some critics claim it to be.

art

Gripping. Harrowing. Confusing. Shocking. Supreme acting. At two and a half hours great value for money. A `must-see` movie. Be prepared to read fast!!

art

Gripping. Harrowing. Confusing. Shocking. Supreme acting. At two and a half hours great value for money. A `must-see` movie. Be prepared to read fast!!

Gen

I thought maybe there was a subtext throughout the story related to The prophet (you know, the big one) - I'm not a scholar of Islam, but seems there are some parallels there - for those who find this film a bit perplexing maybe looking at it that way will give it some more coherence. Great film.

Gen

I thought maybe there was a subtext throughout the story related to The prophet (you know, the big one) - I'm not a scholar of Islam, but seems there are some parallels there - for those who find this film a bit perplexing maybe looking at it that way will give it some more coherence. Great film.

cheryl

Liked the film a lot but then I am a long-time convert to the old school French thriller so it got off on the right foot. Was not aware that Corsica had a different language. Had thought that because it is French owned it's language would be French but maybe it just isn't Napoleonic French. I agree with the person that said about the heist in Paris. It almost descended into farce. Also the pace was so fast moving later on that, with subtitles, it was difficult to follow all the gang connections. Think I will need to see it again. Won't be with the friend I went to see it with though. She works in that area and it was all too much of a busman's holiday for her. Another thing was that it seemed far to easily accepted that the murder in prison was a suicide. But then I suppose there was no DNA testing and no CCTV back when the lead character was supposed to be a teenager.

cheryl

Liked the film a lot but then I am a long-time convert to the old school French thriller so it got off on the right foot. Was not aware that Corsica had a different language. Had thought that because it is French owned it's language would be French but maybe it just isn't Napoleonic French. I agree with the person that said about the heist in Paris. It almost descended into farce. Also the pace was so fast moving later on that, with subtitles, it was difficult to follow all the gang connections. Think I will need to see it again. Won't be with the friend I went to see it with though. She works in that area and it was all too much of a busman's holiday for her. Another thing was that it seemed far to easily accepted that the murder in prison was a suicide. But then I suppose there was no DNA testing and no CCTV back when the lead character was supposed to be a teenager.

Angus Kerr

The narrative is powerfully told, and as a thriller the film succeeds in giving me an audible pulse. Though, is Audiard trying to do too much? I think so, and the marking of scenes, either; gritty violent, psychotic introspective, poetic realist or self-reflexively stylistic makes it feel like the film is begging me to like it. I enjoyed the meandering nature of the story, and the different windows of culture we could peer into, as well as the touches of humor, but ended only feeling that my heart had been roughed up a bit not mugged.

Angus Kerr

The narrative is powerfully told, and as a thriller the film succeeds in giving me an audible pulse. Though, is Audiard trying to do too much? I think so, and the marking of scenes, either; gritty violent, psychotic introspective, poetic realist or self-reflexively stylistic makes it feel like the film is begging me to like it. I enjoyed the meandering nature of the story, and the different windows of culture we could peer into, as well as the touches of humor, but ended only feeling that my heart had been roughed up a bit not mugged.

Robert Conor O&#039;Gorman

Jacques Audiard is responsible for, in my opinion, one of the finest Thrillers to come out of France or anywhere else for that matter, Sur mes Levres which slowly built upon it's premise and layered itself beautifully to the climax, making a lot of statements about gender issues, disabilities and French ( and Western ) Capitalism in general, without ever really trying. A Prophet feels like it's competing with La Haine ( another picture I thought was heavy handed, over rated ) in the look at what's really going on stakes and in a lot of ways the plot is all too often too convenient to this end. In a very strange way, not nearly as subtle in it's social commentary as Irreversible and no where near as energetic. Performances are excellent throughout though just, y'know, with a title like A Prophet ...

Robert Conor O&#039;Gorman

Jacques Audiard is responsible for, in my opinion, one of the finest Thrillers to come out of France or anywhere else for that matter, Sur mes Levres which slowly built upon it's premise and layered itself beautifully to the climax, making a lot of statements about gender issues, disabilities and French ( and Western ) Capitalism in general, without ever really trying. A Prophet feels like it's competing with La Haine ( another picture I thought was heavy handed, over rated ) in the look at what's really going on stakes and in a lot of ways the plot is all too often too convenient to this end. In a very strange way, not nearly as subtle in it's social commentary as Irreversible and no where near as energetic. Performances are excellent throughout though just, y'know, with a title like A Prophet ...

Mercia

This film has been vastly overrated by professional critics and prize-juries It is thematically incoherent even though it implies that it is profound Is it really clear,for instance, in what way the central figure is a prophet? What is the point of the slain animals? Is the last heist,in the center of Paris,at all plausible? The film also lacks narrative tension and it is way,way too long.

Mercia

This film has been vastly overrated by professional critics and prize-juries It is thematically incoherent even though it implies that it is profound Is it really clear,for instance, in what way the central figure is a prophet? What is the point of the slain animals? Is the last heist,in the center of Paris,at all plausible? The film also lacks narrative tension and it is way,way too long.

grandad

A very powerful shocking film for sure. Confusing in places, perhaps because of cultural nuances and compounded by english as my first and only language

grandad

A very powerful shocking film for sure. Confusing in places, perhaps because of cultural nuances and compounded by english as my first and only language

Rogue

An excellent film, the acting was superb, particularly Niels Arestrup, and the rise of Malik's underdog is fascinatingly portrayed. Difficult to watch at times, in particular the scene Dave refers to in his review, but at no point does the violence feel gratuitous. The only criticism I would make is that I felt it was slightly too long - it could have had the same impact in 30 minutes less runtime. Go see it at a comfortable, roomy cinema, make sure you get good seats and it's a must see.

Rogue

An excellent film, the acting was superb, particularly Niels Arestrup, and the rise of Malik's underdog is fascinatingly portrayed. Difficult to watch at times, in particular the scene Dave refers to in his review, but at no point does the violence feel gratuitous. The only criticism I would make is that I felt it was slightly too long - it could have had the same impact in 30 minutes less runtime. Go see it at a comfortable, roomy cinema, make sure you get good seats and it's a must see.

ZenBen

This is a fantastic film and well deserves its plaudits if for different reasons than Dave Calhoun's . An interest in France and its colonial legacy may be helpful in getting the best out of seeing this but the equivalent is happening here.It is far better than the 2dimensional British crime flick as it alludes to the ever changing face of France and how one fits in when we all have multiple identities and in fact has some similarities to Michael Haneke's 'Hidden' . A highly intelligent ,riveting film for grown-ups !

ZenBen

This is a fantastic film and well deserves its plaudits if for different reasons than Dave Calhoun's . An interest in France and its colonial legacy may be helpful in getting the best out of seeing this but the equivalent is happening here.It is far better than the 2dimensional British crime flick as it alludes to the ever changing face of France and how one fits in when we all have multiple identities and in fact has some similarities to Michael Haneke's 'Hidden' . A highly intelligent ,riveting film for grown-ups !

Douglas

This is a first rate piece of cinema and thoroughly deserves a 5 star rating.

Douglas

This is a first rate piece of cinema and thoroughly deserves a 5 star rating.

H

Poor. Doesnt match the hype. Confirmed to me most film reviewers are just bandwagon hoppers and will praise anything lauded at cannes.

H

Poor. Doesnt match the hype. Confirmed to me most film reviewers are just bandwagon hoppers and will praise anything lauded at cannes.

Arcpd

An excellent, well paced, beautifully shot, and superbly acted movie. Raw and unsentimental, a gem of it's type. To follow this journey of a young man's brutilised human condition and his struggle for independence left one both exhausted and in awe of this film makers skill.

Arcpd

An excellent, well paced, beautifully shot, and superbly acted movie. Raw and unsentimental, a gem of it's type. To follow this journey of a young man's brutilised human condition and his struggle for independence left one both exhausted and in awe of this film makers skill.

Andy K

Rather dull, too long and lacking surprises. Just about worth watching, but nothing more and certainly not the film of the year, even if the year is only 30 days old!

Andy K

Rather dull, too long and lacking surprises. Just about worth watching, but nothing more and certainly not the film of the year, even if the year is only 30 days old!

vangelis

Reading the critics i runned to the nearest cinema to watch the new taxi driver and one of the best movies ever. What did i saw finally. I have to admit that the actor of the leading part was very good you good really see the difference between the scared arab in the beggining and the fearless clever mafia boss at the end. One more positive thing is that 156 minutes didnt tire me at all. the director did a very consistent job but i have to admit that the second part wasn perfect if you compare it with the first.the movie had some very good taken scenes and a nice clever script. So what how many movies well directed with good script we see every year quite a fiew but that does a moviethe greatest movie dont we need sth more no exactly a deeper meening but lets say a breakthrough in the cinematography. Comparing with taxi driver means that probably you havent seen the taxidriver. Overall a nice sunday movie but thats it nothing more

vangelis

Reading the critics i runned to the nearest cinema to watch the new taxi driver and one of the best movies ever. What did i saw finally. I have to admit that the actor of the leading part was very good you good really see the difference between the scared arab in the beggining and the fearless clever mafia boss at the end. One more positive thing is that 156 minutes didnt tire me at all. the director did a very consistent job but i have to admit that the second part wasn perfect if you compare it with the first.the movie had some very good taken scenes and a nice clever script. So what how many movies well directed with good script we see every year quite a fiew but that does a moviethe greatest movie dont we need sth more no exactly a deeper meening but lets say a breakthrough in the cinematography. Comparing with taxi driver means that probably you havent seen the taxidriver. Overall a nice sunday movie but thats it nothing more

marc

great film indeed, but please don't (justin hooper) compare with taxi driver - 30 years from now, im sure you'll agree

marc

great film indeed, but please don't (justin hooper) compare with taxi driver - 30 years from now, im sure you'll agree

Jerry 58

Very disapionting,a part from the scene were he flosses with a razor blade nothing we haven,t seen before, the only thing doing hard time through most of this film was my posterior

Jerry 58

Very disapionting,a part from the scene were he flosses with a razor blade nothing we haven,t seen before, the only thing doing hard time through most of this film was my posterior

TrickyDicky

Great film. Superb story. Excellent acting. It thoroughly deserves 4 stars. I saw it at CineWorld Haymarket on a Sunday evening – though not packed, it was much, much busier than a normal Sunday screening. Despite being 155 mins, not one person left early. Highly recommended. Possibly a little violent, and probably not the sort of film you’d take your mum to see. It deserves to be Time Out/London's 'Film of the Week'.

TrickyDicky

Great film. Superb story. Excellent acting. It thoroughly deserves 4 stars. I saw it at CineWorld Haymarket on a Sunday evening – though not packed, it was much, much busier than a normal Sunday screening. Despite being 155 mins, not one person left early. Highly recommended. Possibly a little violent, and probably not the sort of film you’d take your mum to see. It deserves to be Time Out/London's 'Film of the Week'.

cinephile

Brilliant film! Probably the best I've seen in years. A five- star without question. Both Tahar Rahim (main character) and Neils Arestrup are mesmerising. Although the film is excellent, it is not the fainthearted.

cinephile

Brilliant film! Probably the best I've seen in years. A five- star without question. Both Tahar Rahim (main character) and Neils Arestrup are mesmerising. Although the film is excellent, it is not the fainthearted.

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