By Aaron Fenn
Often, new releases hit movie theaters and reviewers will make
bold statements such as, “better than ‘The Godfather'” or “scarier
than ‘The Exorcist’.”
Most of the time, I’ll personally write off any reviewer
comparing a new movie to a classic film that has stood the test of
However, in the case of the French film nominated for the 2010
Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, the comparisons to “The
Godfather” and critics who say it’s “an instant classic,” may just
be right on the money.
“A Prophet” (Un Prophete) is the epic story of a 19-year-old
Arab, named Maillk, is sentenced to a six-year prison term.
It starts off like anyone else would be in prison: quiet,
frightened and alone. The “old-lion” of the prison and the head of
the Corsican mafia, Cesar, takes note of Malik’s demeanor and
forces him to murder another Arab prisoner who is about to turn
informant. Once successful, Cesar has Malik perform other odd jobs
and errands for the group, but Malik has bigger plans that extend
beyond Cesar’s simple mind.
“A Prophet” is many things: epically orchestrated, grandiose in
size and scope, superbly crafted, expertly executed and includes
one hell of an outstanding performance from Tahar Rahim as
When movies attempt to tackle numerous different plot lines and
character arcs, they occasionally end up focusing too much on one
specific story, leaving the others thoroughly underdeveloped.
Thankfully, director Jacques Audiard executes this particular
epic crime film with undeniable brilliance and ease.
During the first 30 minutes of the film, when Malik is asked to
murder a fellow inmate by holding a razor in his mouth, entering
the victim’s cell, throwing the razor to his teeth, grabbing the
razor and slitting the man’s throat, Audiard is able to fill the
screen with an immensely palpable sense of tension, reality and
Audiard also doesn’t shy away from stylized sequences.
One of the most superb sequences involves a drug cartel montage
set to Nas’ “Bridging the Gap.” During the conclusion of the film,
in one of the greatest and most tense sequences of “A Prophet,”
Audiard silences the violence that takes place around Malik and
instead focuses on his face, displaying a deep character arc that
only the most talented of filmmakers would know how to exude. The
final shot of the film is, in a word, haunting.
Audiard also has not only an incredible sense of direction, but
knows how to bring out the most in his lead actor, Tahar Rahim.
Through the course of the more than 150 minute running time, Rahim
goes from being a frightened 19 year old, fresh into prison, to a
tough, gritty crime boss, and every single minute of his
performance feels nothing less than authentic.
“A Prophet” is a complex, ambitious crime film that understands
how to pull off material just as well as films like “The Godfather”
did almost forty years ago. Did I just compare “A Prophet” to
another film? Well, I guess in this case, the comparison is well
deserved; welcome to a new crime masterpiece.
Reach Aaron Fenn at: email@example.com
Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics
Foreign film bringing new mafia action
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