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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
18
Cast
Tahar Rahim
Niels Arestrup
Adel Bencherif.
Directors
Jacques Audiard.
Screenwriters
Jacques Audiard
Thomas Bidegain.
Running Time
149 minutes

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A Prophet
The French guide to porridge


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Plot
Sent down for six years for an unspecified crime, illiterate French-Arab teen Malik El Djebena (Rahim) is initiated into the prison’s criminal underworld. A fast learner, he soon starts to plot his rapid ascendancy through the violent and brutal hierarchy of his fellow inmates to become a formidable player.


Review
A Prophet
Jacques Audiard is in love with the promise and potential of the crime thriller genre. Both 2001’s Read My Lips — a psycho-sexual film noir with respectful nods to Hitchcock and Sirk — and 2005’s The Beat That My Heart Skipped — a nervily realist reworking of James Toback’s 1978 crime ’n’ classical music melodrama, Fingers — brought a Gallic naturalism to the hoary crime flick. With A Prophet he’s pushed that model further, creating a gritty, expansive prison drama that constantly strains against the bars of the genre.

As small-time teen crim Malik, Rahim shifts from wary tough-nut to keen student to aloof enigma in the furrow of a brow. It’s a masterful performance but it has to be, as Audiard’s roving camera never leaves him. Regarded as a dirty Arab by the Corsican cons and a greasy Corsican by the Arab inmates, Malik is our guide through the nightmare labyrinth of the French penal system and its network of warring tribes.

Central to Malik’s rise is his relationship with imprisoned Corsican crime boss Cesar, played with wearily majestic portent by Niels Arestrup. It’s on Cesar’s orders that — on pain of death — Malik murders fellow Arab inmate Reyeb (Hichem Yacoubi), resulting in two of the film’s most viscerally affecting scenes: the murder itself, and Malik’s painful studies in how to hide a razorblade in the mouth. Once the deed is done, Malik has two protectors: Cesar and the ghost of Reyeb. But whereas Cesar’s role is central to the narrative arc, Reyeb, who initiates occasional moments of compelling surrealism, seems like an idea sacrificed to the cutting room floor.

Against the cosy genre conventions of that other recent grandiose French crime flick, Mesrine, A Prophet’s ambition and sense of thrilling invention is commendable. Yet unlike say, Gomorrah or Il Divo, where labyrinthine structures illustrated the complexities of the criminal systems on trial, here it just seems Audiard has got in over his head. Characters introduced with chapterised freeze-frames and cool intertitles are passed over or forgotten about (most unforgivably, Reyeb himself), while bigger ideas like Malik’s ability to see into the future (the prophecies of the title) and his status as a hero within the narrative just seem confused.


Verdict
A modern French crime epic where the smudges and crossings out do not diminish the passages of great dreamlike power.


Reviewed by Andrew Male

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for A Prophet
Empire Star Rating

No substance just a typical crime thriller; BUT hey its french give it another star!

I'm afraid this crime epic lacks a discernible protagonist, we never empathise or sympathis with him or his situation and Rahim's acting is pretty much down to three expressions. The title alludes to one incident where anyone who can read a sign could have foretold it...I mean c'mon Empire! Because its french it is praised but had it been American, NO sir. It would have been seen for the muddled, tedious and action packed tale it is instead of some inventive, realist drama. PS I'm finding Empi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Senton at 15:52, 04 January 2011 | Report This Post


Great performance and the central story, while at times complicated, is enthralling. It's just a shame that the directors want to include to many different themes results in the film losing its way at times. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by plum bob at 21:17, 13 November 2010 | Report This Post


A Prophet

Really enjoyed this, though as the review says some of the more interesting ideas seem to have been largely left on the cutting room floor, there's still plenty in there to justify the five stars. Top notch performance from Tahar Rahim. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Spacegoat at 10:18, 17 August 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

I was disappointed by this movie, after hearing all the hype and the DVD cover claiming it was The Godfather meets Scarface I was expecting this to be amazing but what I thought afterwards was that it was just another prison movie and sure there were some parts that were good such as when he kills that dude with the razor and how the class system in the prison changes over the years but I thought that it was slightly pretentious especially the whole scene where he spots the deer sign before the... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by MI Cruise at 23:51, 10 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

Fantastic and original ,just as good as Mesrine and shows again how ace French Cinema is at the moment  ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by filmburner30 at 12:04, 09 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

L: ElephantBoy Why are you all talking about other films in this thread? ozz said that A Prophet was derivative of many other films, which led to a comparison between A Prophet and a bunch of other flicks. Its a fairly standard way of critiquing a film, so I don't see the problem here. A few jokes were cracked at the expense of Bozz's recent spate of viewings too, but it was all in good fun. ... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 19:53, 05 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

Why are you all talking about other films in this thread? ... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 19:31, 05 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

The way the soundtrack went a bit omnious and he kept walking with the girl and kid I thought he was just staying with them so the blokes wouldn't attack. Ta for clearing that up! ... More

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 10:48, 05 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

L: The REAL Bozz It's ok! Lol, although yeah I see what you mean. I'm off to see Predators later on in the week, so that combined with a Segall marathon may go some way to throw the balance back in favour of my maleness!! Actually since your on here you could clear somthing up for me. In the final scenes of A Prophet who were the guys waiting outside the jail? Were they his crew who he had running things outside or are they supposed to be guys gonna jump him or what? I had to rewi... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 10:45, 05 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

It's ok! Lol, although yeah I see what you mean. I'm off to see Predators later on in the week, so that combined with a Segall marathon may go some way to throw the balance back in favour of my maleness!! Actually since your on here you could clear somthing up for me. In the final scenes of A Prophet who were the guys waiting outside the jail? Were they his crew who he had running things outside or are they supposed to be guys gonna jump him or what? I had to rewind that part, I couldn't m... More

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 10:20, 05 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

L: The REAL Bozz If I am...there's somthing very wrong....(I'm notuote] Sorry man, I added 2 + 2 to get five (SATC + Eclipse) ... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 10:15, 05 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

If I am...there's somthing very wrong....(I'm not ... More

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 10:13, 05 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

I didn't realise you were a chick BOZZ... Suddenly everything makes much more sense. ... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 01:22, 05 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

Give a shit ... More

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 23:54, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

That says more on you though. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 23:48, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

Now wouldn't be the best time to say I just got back from Eclipse...and thought it was more entertaining than A Prophet. It's ok. I'm going. ... More

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 23:42, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

L: The REAL Bozz See I'd have said Romanzo - Crime Novel - was similar to other genre flicks but I still enjoyed that more so than A Prophet just due to the pace and the characters etc. omanzo Criminale was pants though, saying it is better than A Prophet is pretty damning for the French film. ... More

Posted by Deviation at 19:28, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: A Prophet

L: Wild about Wilder Absolutley fan"fucking"tastic a truly great film which not only should've picked up best foreign oscar but should've been nominated for & won best picture. & as for Tahar Rahim what a brekout performance shame he gets beat out at Baftas for rising star by Twighlights little miss sunshine BOY IS SHE A MISSERABLE COW! think she was embarassed to receive it because all the Twi-fans fuck up the voting and she knows she doesn't really deserve it on merit compare... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 19:00, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

Count me in as one who got a bit lost at times with the different gangs, also didn't think the rockn'roll music belonged in the middle, it took me out of the drama a little.   However this is on my birthday list, for me it was a very invertive way to the kind of story that has been done loads of times before.  It was gritty, stylish, and fantasically well acted.  Just as a film it is so discplined, and carefully crafted.  It does deserve its place as a landmark film in t... More

Posted by ElephantBoy at 16:34, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

No I know, I just didn't want you thinking I took the film lightly. I do think it's a good film! Erm as for nameing a film - setting myself up to be shot here - I was thinking along the terms of Goodfella's and The Departed is so far as all I meant when I made the comment to my mate about seeing it done better before was the shared plot point these films have of the young guy doing work for the older gangster figure and getting deeper into the wolrd etc. I know that's only one of the theme... More

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 11:36, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: A Prophet

For the record, I'm not claiming that A Prophet is the greatest crime drama of all time, merely that it isn't as stereotypical as some think. I'm a big fan of French incarceration cinema, which is a surprisingly healthy sub-genre, and one that traces the core roots and ideals of France's national cinema rather nicely, which in turn acta as a genre indicative of the developments and changes of France as a nation quite nicely over the past seventy years or so. I consider A Prophet to be more in t... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 11:31, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

L: The REAL Bozz Ok. I'll back myself up. What I meant by that comment was I found the arc the main lad goes through very similar to other crime / gangster flicks in so far as he starts out as a nobody and climbs the ladder. Now what I was getting at when I said it's been done better was that at times I thought the flick dragged that's all. I never said it was shit, just I felt it went on a bit. ame a film then!! Thats all I ask. Nobody can name a film that does what A Prophet do... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 11:23, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

L: The REAL Bozz Also, I know you never meant to be snarky but what you dont know about my film taste can fill a book. I'll watch anything, which is why I saw A Prophet in the first place right after Outlander and Sex and The City. I have thrown in a few more wold cinema classics in my list there for my opinion to be taken seriouslyell yes, if you had A Prophet compared to something like, say City Of God, or The Godfather then I would obviously take your opinion more seriously, but... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 11:20, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

L: The REAL Bozz As for it being set apart I just meant they are differenty types of films. Family films mate is all I meant, mum and dad are hardly gonna bring the kids out to see A Prophet are they? nd thats why I didn't make any mention of families or children seeing the film. The comment was aimed at the tens of thousands of 18 year olds + that chose SH and Avatar over A Prophet. ... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 11:18, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

Ok. I'll back myself up. What I meant by that comment was I found the arc the main lad goes through very similar to other crime / gangster flicks in so far as he starts out as a nobody and climbs the ladder. Now what I was getting at when I said it's been done better was that at times I thought the flick dragged that's all. I never said it was shit, just I felt it went on a bit. Also, I know you never meant to be snarky but what you dont know about my film taste can fill a book. I'll watc... More

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 10:33, 04 July 2010 | Report This Post


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