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After refusing to snitch, 18-year-old Arab Malik is placed into a French prison, where the Corsican mafia rules with an iron fist. The newcomer slowly rises through the ranks but soon begins to double-cross his superiors. There are a lot of prison movies out there that look good on paper but have issues with the execution. A Prophet proves to be much more than just a just a prison flick. Each character given time on the screen is developed well. The audience gets a chance to get to know each of the roles and form opinions. The filmmakers don't spoon-feed how viewers should feel about each character. This leaves space for interpretations and discussions following the film. Despite this being a rather violent film at times, this isn't where the element of disturbing comes in. A Prophet plays with your emotions and psychologically manipulates its viewers. The dialogue is excellent and is well-rounded. Pacing holds the same outcome of being very well-composed. This is an exceptional screenplay that gives enough to discuss for hours after the credits are done rolling.
As mentioned before, A Prophet is a psychologically disturbing film. The strong dialogue written for the actors certainly takes part in this. In order for the screenplay to sincerely be effective, the actors must give performances that match the source material. Expect no less from this affair. Despite the different opinions on the character of Malik El Djebena, viewers will mutually agree on the talent of Tahar Rahim. He absolutely nails the character and candidly comes across as that character. He handles his role on all emotional fronts. Niels Arestrup also delivers a fantastic performance as CÚsar Luciani. The skills of Rahim and Arestrup are intense and even more excellent when both actors appear on screen together. Each actor is great in his own right creating a group of very talented actors led by terrific direction.
Most of A Prophet takes place within the confines of the prison with a smaller portion of the film taking place outside of the prison following Malik working for his superiors inside the facility. The cinematography and editing are stunning from start to finish. The editing is smooth as can be. Director Jacques Audiard has an interesting gritty style that improves the overall sense of the film. The audio quality is flawless. Most of the movie is dialogue, but it's very well prioritized. The surrounds are constantly active with ambiance. The few gunshots fired are mixed into the audio track with perfection. Expect outstanding quality from both the video and audio departments.
There aren't many negative things to be said about A Prophet. This is a great example of top notch film making. It's a powerful film on all levels. The running time may seem very long, but the plot is so fascinating that the time flies by. Even though a lot of the prison flicks end up failing, this is a superb one. The audience follows Malik on this potent journey where the goal is survival, which always comes with a price. This first-class in film making isn't easy to come by and it's a shame that this Oscar nominated movie didn't come out as the victor. A Prophet is an absolute must-see for those who are searching for first-rate cinema.