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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

RE: Five Stars

L: The REAL Bozz L: adambatman82 Absolutely outstanding. It pains me to see the masses queuing for the likes of Avatar or Sherlock Holmes, when genuine greatness is on display in the same building. Truly wonderful, and the best film of the last ten years after There Will Be Blood. urely A Prophet is set apart from such blockbuster fare though? Nothing wrong with a bit of Avatar and Sherlock Holmes IMO the later of which I enjoyed more as a film experiance than this over rated c... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 23:50, 03 July 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Five Stars

L: adambatman82 Absolutely outstanding. It pains me to see the masses queuing for the likes of Avatar or Sherlock Holmes, when genuine greatness is on display in the same building. Truly wonderful, and the best film of the last ten years after There Will Be Blood. urely A Prophet is set apart from such blockbuster fare though? Nothing wrong with a bit of Avatar and Sherlock Holmes IMO the later of which I enjoyed more as a film experiance than this over rated crime yarn. Yep it's goo... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by The REAL Bozz at 22:13, 03 July 2010 | Report This Post


An instant classic

A modern French crime epic for 2010 & one of best movies i have.Seen from French In some time. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by soulfood at 22:36, 28 June 2010 | Report This Post


RE: A Prophet

caugth up with this in amongst all the footy. All the usual elements of the prison drama are present and correct, but assembled in confident, stylish fashion to produce a gritty and realistic film, albeit one with semi-mystical overtones. Best of all is the terrific acting by Tamar Rahim, a performance which brings to mind a young de Niro, or even a young Craig Doyle before his move to Grandstand. Also enjoyed the unusual version of Mack the Knife over the end sequence. Very good (8/10) ... More

Posted by MOTH at 16:40, 17 June 2010 | Report This Post


RE: A Prophet

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! ... More

Posted by Wild about Wilder at 15:46, 17 June 2010 | Report This Post


A Prophet

This gets five stars from me, the central performance by Tahar Rahim really is reminiscent of an early Robert De Niro and is such a powerful and accomplished achievement the film almost can't fail because of it. Plus there is so much tension in the story because of the prison environment and the various pressures Malik is under that the combination of the two make you understand why it got so many plaudits. Chuck in some harrowing brutality and a brilliant prison boss in Niels Arestrup an... More

Posted by Fluke Skywalker at 13:16, 14 June 2010 | Report This Post


Great

Really good but it seems he might actually be prophet especially as in one scene he predicts the movements of other prisoners with the help of the ghost of Reyab (is it his imagination?) in another scene he seems to know when a dear is about to hit the car he is in and then is proclaimed a prophet by the man who was nearly going to kill him, this is slightly baffleing. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Bighousewill at 18:18, 10 May 2010 | Report This Post


A Prophet

Jacques Audiard has reinvented the gangster movie from scratch from an unusual perspective. Violent, gripping and a tour de force performance from Tahar Rahim. This is well worth the hype and then some. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Soprano168 at 11:51, 27 April 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

L: demoncleaner L: Timon I really enjoyed the film, but I do feel the 'prophet' scenes and Reyeb's flashbacks seemed a tad shoehorned in. That, or other stuff was heavily deleted. However apart from this, it was a very good film although I wish Malik had ditched his Borat-esque mustache. I had initial reservations about the Reyeb scenes and the allusion to Malik's prophetic faculties but the over-arching fact is that the concern of religious mysticism is felt very important... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Axel Foley at 18:33, 22 March 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

L: tftrman Only reason this didn't get full marks from me is that I sometimes lost track of who was dealing (and double dealing) with who, but otherwise an astounding piece of cinema, I didn't notice the running time at all which prove how rivetting I found it. got a little bit lost in the inter-relations between the gangs the 1st time round as well, and that inspired me to see it a second time round yesterday. Do give it another viewing because not only did I fully understand wha... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 11:16, 27 February 2010 | Report This Post


Very, very good

A great crime epic which is up there with the greats of the prison thriller genre. Rahim gives a fantastic understated performance as a young crook rising up the ranks, reminiscent of a young Al Pacino in The Godfather. Arestrup was sufficiently menacing as the Corsican mobster - who ever thought Anthony Worrell Thompson could be so evil?!. After a gritty and sometimes grueling 2.5 hours, I left the cinema feeling strangely uplifted. I was unfamiliar with Jacques Audiard work but will make ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Workshed at 13:44, 11 February 2010 | Report This Post


Brutal, ultra-modern, spectacular prison epic in which a timid young prisoner develops into a shrewd crime boss. One of the films of the year. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Malpertuis at 16:56, 10 February 2010 | Report This Post


Confusing Empire review

Hmm - the empire review totally jars with the four star rating and the verdict. Andrew Male seems lukewarm in his response to the film - judging it to be confused and unable to keep it's threads going and that Audiard is in over his head. A clear 2 or 3 star review. Did the editor pull rank? Because surely he would have to after viewing something so masterful as this film. Audiard came to my attention with the sublime The Beat My Heart Skipped and just like that film he has inspired a per... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by sundance0611 at 00:51, 09 February 2010 | Report This Post


Seen in cinema last night: tp://www.imdb.com/title/tt1235166/]Un Prophète (A Prophet)n 2005 French director Jacques Audiard got much praise for his crime thriller "De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté"(The Beat That My Heart Skipped). Now, well over 4 years later, he`s back with the brilliant Un Prophète - earning him a Best Foreign Language Oscar nomation. And rightly so. It happens quite some times that a film gets great reviews unanimously but dissapoints after ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheGodfather at 00:05, 06 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

Can't say I noticed I'm afraid.   Does anyone know if the French dvd/blu ray has English subtitles as an option? I can't find the information and my French is practically non-existent. ... More

Posted by tftrman at 14:22, 05 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

 A superb film, and one of the best I've seen for a while, surpassing The Motorcycle Diaries and The Lives Of Others IMO. I do have one general question - did anyone notice that part way through the film, some of the dialogue became quite tinny, but the rest of the soundtrack sounded ok? I think it was the cinema system/recording myself, as some deep humming sound was also heard, as if one of the speakers had gone funny?  ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by pazza at 14:12, 05 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

My only real complaint with this movie was the utterly ridiculous Dear and Headlights segments... It just seemed really tacky and didn't fit with the gritty and brutal, yet beautiful nature of the rest of the movie. I also think that It could have been trimmed down a bit to make it a much tighter experience. I feel some of the scenes and storyline archs weren't neccesery and could maybe have been removed, but thats just my personal judgement. Great Empire Review anyway... 4/5 is proba... More

Posted by Annihilate Now! at 14:06, 04 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

L: Timon I really enjoyed the film, but I do feel the 'prophet' scenes and Reyeb's flashbacks seemed a tad shoehorned in. That, or other stuff was heavily deleted. However apart from this, it was a very good film although I wish Malik had ditched his Borat-esque mustache. sp; I had initial reservations about the Reyeb scenes and the allusion to Malik’s prophetic faculties but the over-arching fact is that the concern of religious mysticism is felt very important to its origin.... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 11:53, 04 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

I really enjoyed the film, but I do feel the 'prophet' scenes and Reyeb's flashbacks seemed a tad shoehorned in. That, or other stuff was heavily deleted. However apart from this, it was a very good film although I wish Malik had ditched his Borat-esque mustache. ... More

Posted by Timon at 09:21, 04 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

L: demoncleaner What could be more self-indulgent than characters from a different culture often speaking their own language? I saw it again last night and a second viewing affirmed its compact brilliance.  I do admit that satisfaction has been somewhat eclipsed however by the joyous trepidation I feel upon discovering that yet ement is possible due to the insights of a few desultory viewers who were able to spot that it was clumsy and vague in places.&n... More

Posted by Qwerty Norris at 20:48, 03 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

What could be more self-indulgent than characters from a different culture often speaking their own language? I saw it again last night and a second viewing affirmed its compact brilliance.  I do admit that satisfaction has been somewhat eclipsed however by the joyous trepidation I feel upon discovering that yet ement is possible due to the insights of a few desultory viewers who were able to spot that it was clumsy and vague in places.  That it i] b... More

Posted by demoncleaner at 19:53, 03 February 2010 | Report This Post


Tahar Rahim will be A Big Star

Blown away by this movie. This is proper film-making, and the razor scene was as tense as the assassination in 'The Godfather', it's that good. Also, Tahar Rahim holds the picture together and he definitely has the looks and talent to go very far. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by platham42 at 19:16, 03 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

L: thenightfly Every now and again you watch a film certain that, given the plaudits and hyperbole, it's gonna be good. This wasn't THAT good. In fact, it was self-indulgently average. Yes, superlative acting, but a prosaic, slightly clumsy storyline - it could have been a little tidier - and a messy and vague, perhaps unecessarily enigmatic ending - not to mention at least twenty minutes too long. Perhaps I have just watched an entirely different film to those that (respectfully) l... More

Posted by adambatman82 at 12:21, 03 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

Every now and again you watch a film certain that, given the plaudits and hyperbole, it's gonna be good. This wasn't THAT good. In fact, it was self-indulgently average. Yes, superlative acting, but a prosaic, slightly clumsy storyline - it could have been a little tidier - and a messy and vague, perhaps unecessarily enigmatic ending - not to mention at least twenty minutes too long. Perhaps I have just watched an entirely different film to those that (respectfully) laud this, because I am t... More

Posted by thenightfly at 06:05, 03 February 2010 | Report This Post


RE: Very good. But not great!

Only reason this didn't get full marks from me is that I sometimes lost track of who was dealing (and double dealing) with who, but otherwise an astounding piece of cinema, I didn't notice the running time at all which prove how rivetting I found it. ... More

Posted by tftrman at 13:50, 01 February 2010 | Report This Post


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